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The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party Hardcover – September 26, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Bowen understands what so many historians don't--that politics is often about power and organization, with ideas coming a distant third." -- National Review

"Bowen uses his central argument to weave a coherent and compelling narrative...This is a book well worth the attention of scholars who study the Right." - Jerome Himmelstein, Indiana Magazine of History

A detailed, interesting, even intriguing investigation. . . . Through careful analysis of archival material, news and magazine accounts, and the writings of other scholars, Bowen tells a lively and largely well written story about ideas, politics, egos, and both good and bad decisions.--Florida Historical Quarterly

This is a masterful treatment of a time when the Republican Party was truly a minority party, and an adroit explanation of how it began to lift itself out of the doldrums.--North Carolina Historical Review

Bowen offers a convincing account of the demise of Dewey's moderate Republicanism and Taft's Old Guard.--Kansas History

Explore[s] in insightful ways American political developments during the 1940s and 1950s. . . . [It] merit[s] wide attention.--International Social Science Review

[A] judicious and timely account.--The Historian

This book makes a necessary correction to our understanding of the history of conservatism and the Republican party, and it will be useful for scholars, graduates, and upper-level undergraduates.--Journal of American History


The creation story of the modern conservative movement is a familiar tale of begats. Bill Buckley begat Barry Goldwater who begat Ronald Reagan. But perhaps that tale is too familiar. Michael Bowen offers a fascinating, meticulously researched, and revealing prequel to the well-worn narrative. This is an invaluable, scholarly contribution to both intellectual and political history.--Jonah Goldberg, contributing editor, National Review, and columnist, LA Times

Michael Bowen's fine new book is a timely reminder that rifts within political parties are not only about competing policy agendas but also about fights between career politicos and their organizations. The Roots of Modern Conservatism helps explain why the Republicans took so long to rebound from the collapse of the Hoover presidency and what the long-term consequences for American conservatism were of that long period in the political wilderness.--David Stebenne, Ohio State University, author of Modern Republican: Arthur Larson and the Eisenhower Years

Mike Bowen's narrative gives us an inside look at party leadership at a hinge point in our political history. He delves into the back story of a number of figures and events to explain how and why the Republican Party developed the way it did after World War II. This is a must read for anyone interested in the emergence of our modern two-party system.--U.S. Senator Bob Graham


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st New edition edition (September 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807834858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807834855
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,564,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By MarkK VINE VOICE on October 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Over the course of the twentieth century, the Republican Party evolved from an ideologically diverse coalition of regional groups into a more uniformly conservative organization. There were many steps in this process, from the split created by Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential run in 1912 to the struggle between the so-called “Rockefeller” and “Goldwater” Republicans in the 1960s, which have received attention from scholars. In this book Michael Bowen focuses another step in this transformation, the battle between the supporters of Thomas E. Dewey and Robert Taft in the 1940s and early 1950s. In the process, he corrects several misconceptions about the nature of their conflict, corrections that shed considerable light on the modern-day struggles within the GOP today.

Bowen begins with the Republican Party in the early 1940s, when it faced successive losses to the Democrats in the 1940 and 1944 presidential elections. Though defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1944, Dewey used his role as the Republican nominee to install his people in key positions within the party. With their help Dewey sought to project a more moderate image for the GOP, one that might be more appealing to the broader electorate. This goal, however, put Dewey at odds with Taft, who projected a more conservative tone and sought to capture the presidential nomination for himself. Yet Bowen sees their clash as more a matter of ambition and style rather than substance, noting both Dewey’s conservative positions and Taft’s moderate stance on a few prominent subjects.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well written and extremely informed book about the early years of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. For those interested in learning why most conservatives are currently part of the GOP, then this book will help you better understand the transformation. Well worth the read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's a common fault in modern times: history started in 2000, when the Internet really took off, or even worse, at the beginning of the current President's term in office. This book breaks that illusion and digs deep into the history of where our modern beliefs and disagreements come from. A brilliant, quite readable, scholarly take on modern politics. Highly recommended.
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