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Inventing the "American Way"

Wendy L. WallWendy L. Wall

Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University Twentieth-Century United States
Office: LT 713
Phone: (607) 777-2382


I am an historian of the twentieth-century U.S. with an abiding interest in the nation’s political culture and the construction of American identity, broadly defined. (My teaching interests also include the history of the American West from pre-Columbian times to the present.) I am particularly interested in the way that “Americanism” has been delineated by those in power and by the way that traditionally marginalized or excluded groups have resisted, deployed, adapted to, or changed such definitions. Since many factors influence political culture—and issues relating to identity are played out in diverse arenas—my work crosses the traditional categorical boundaries into which U.S. historians are generally corralled. My published work has drawn on and spoken to scholars in the fields of political, intellectual, cultural, ethnic, religious, racial, gender, economic, and diplomatic history. My book Inventing the “American Way”: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement <;ci=9780195329100> argues that America’s postwar “consensus” can best be understood, not as a social fact, but as a political project—a project rooted in the turbulent decade that preceded U.S. entry into World War II. Beginning with this premise, the book traces the diverse and competing efforts of various groups to shape a consensus on national values between the mid-1930s and the mid-1950s. I am currently working on two book projects: a history of the Immigration Act of 1965, and a study of the promotion, uses and permutations of civil religion from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.

Significant Publications

Inventing the “American Way”: The Politics of Consensus from the New Deal to the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008; paperback, 2009).

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Last Updated: 8/18/10