Before Woodrow Wilson became President of the United States he was a prolific writer of political science and history. While his political science works have received much attention from political scientists and historians alike, his historical endeavors have been criticized for their literary style, lack of primary research, as well as their failure to contribute anything new to the realm of historiography. As a result, Wilson's five volume history of the United States, History of the American People, and his biography, George Washington, have been labeled as "bad history" and remain an unexplored area of Wilsonian scholarship. An examination of Wilson's conception of the historian's task demonstrates that he not only rejected the new emerging norms of objectivity, but saw it as the role of the historian to provide judgement on the past. In his discussion of the political men of the American Revolution, Wilson's analysis of the founding fathers allowed him to explore his own identifications with Virginia, English statesmanship, and Alexander Hamilton's brand of Federalism. These identities--especially his harsh criticism of Thomas Jefferson--contradicted with where Wilson should have placed himself politically as a member of the Democratic Party, leading many to argue that Wilson turned towards Jefferson as he entered politics. Far from being a distraction from his career in public affairs, Wilson's exploration of the American founding reinforced his prioritization of political men in the narrative of the American past and ultimately helped facilitate his transition from Woodrow Wilson the historian to Woodrow Wilson the politician.
Date of Completion
Bachelor of Arts in History
Date of Award
University of Puget Sound
Plant, Alex, "Woodrow Wilson the "Possessive" and Political Historian: Discovering an Identification with the American Founding" (2015). History Theses. 15.