Forty years from wingspread: The transformation of american intellectual history

Modern Intellectual History 16 (2):633-651 (2019)

Abstract
If one Googles “Wingspread” a vast number of conference titles covering all manner of topics will fill the screen: from Fire-Rescue Service Stakeholders to Endocrine Disruptors, from Domestic Violence to Civic Responsibilities of Research. Of more interest to intellectual historians was the conference on the future of American intellectual history held at the Wingspread Conference Center in 1977. Over forty years the “Wingspread conference” and the book that came out of it has echoed through the field. Neither the conference nor the book that emerged from it, New Directions in American Intellectual History, edited by John Higham and Paul Conkin, was a celebration of the field. It focused on a collective crisis of confidence, particularly among the more senior scholars. The heart of the matter at the conference was the perceived challenge of social history, a social history that fancied itself “scientific” and more rigorous than intellectual history. There was fear that this movement in the profession was marginalizing a field that had flourished for a couple of generations.
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DOI 10.1017/s1479244317000567
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