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Robert Westbrook Headshot

Robert B. Westbrook

  • Joseph F. Cunningham Professor of History Emeritus

PhD, Stanford University, 1981

440 Rush Rhees Library
Home (585) 637--872

Office Hours: By appointment

Curriculum Vitae


American History

Research Overview

I am principally an historian of the modern United States (1865-Present). I have written a great deal on the history of philosophical pragmatism, publishing an intellectual biography of John Dewey, as well as Democratic Hope, a study of the political implications of pragmatism and neo-pragmatism. Much of my current research centers on the American social imaginary in the years of the Great Depression and World War II. My work moves happily and eclectically across the supposed divides between high and popular culture, between intellectual and cultural history. These diverse interests are reflected as well in the dissertations I have advised. My transnational concerns are reflected in writing I do on modern American foreign policy and on transatlantic intellectual and cultural history.

One of the things I value most in the traditions of the history department here at the University of Rochester is the commitment to extending the public sphere in which historians practice their craft beyond the confines of a narrowly circumscribed professional and academic realm. History here has, now and again, served as a form of social and cultural criticism. My own interventions in matters of overt public moment have of late been concentrated in the pages of The Christian Century,  Raritan, and The New Republic.

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Selected Publications

  • John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991).
  • In Face of the Facts: Moral Inquiry in American Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  • Why We Fought: Forging American Obligations in World War II  (Washington: Smithsonian Press, 2004).
  • Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005).
  •  "Wild Orchids" in David Rondel, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Rorty (New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
  •  "Sally Mann and the Burden of Southern History," Raritan (forthcoming).
  •  "Creative Democracy: The Task Still Before Us" in Bruce Jennings, ed., Civic Learning, Hastings Center Special Report (forthcoming).
  •  "Socialism and the Democracy Deficit: The Quest for Radical Equality in the American Grain, The New Republic (June 2019): 30-36.
  • "Roughing It," Reviews in American History 47 (2019): 148-158.
  • "This Land Is Your Land: American Cultural Nationalism, 1929-1941" in Ichiro Takayoshi, ed., American Literature in Transition, 1929-1941 (New York: Cambridge, 2018), 198-228.
  • "Virtuous Reality: The Politics of Character in a Post-Liberal Age," The Baffler (Winter 2016): 17-27.
  • "Populist Fever," Christian Century (8 June 2016): 22-27.
  • "Dwight Macdonald: Democracy and Discrimination," Raritan 35 (Summer 2015): 57-80.
  • "Tragic Deal," Reviews in American History 43 (2015): 1-13.