My Times & Life: A His­to­ri­an’s Progress Through a Con­tentious Age

Mor­ton Keller
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
Mor­ton Keller, the dis­tin­guished his­to­ri­an of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, has writ­ten a brief but high­ly engross­ing mem­oir of his years grow­ing up in a non-reli­gious Jew­ish fam­i­ly in New York City; his under­grad­u­ate years at Queens Col­lege and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Rochester; his grad­u­ate school days at Har­vard where he did his dis­ser­ta­tion, a biog­ra­phy of an insur­ance exec­u­tive, under the direc­tion of Oscar Han­dlin; his teach­ing stints at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia; his near­ly half a cen­tu­ry of teach­ing at Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty; his hap­py mar­riage to Phyl­lis, a dis­tin­guished aca­d­e­mi­cian in her own right; and his retire­ment years, part of which he has spent at the Hoover Insti­tu­tion on the cam­pus of Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty in Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia. Keller is ret­i­cent regard­ing his social and polit­i­cal views, but he does pro­vide clues. He has two chil­dren: his daugh­ter is a Repub­li­can lawyer and his son is a polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor who wrote a book evis­cer­at­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment of Mass­a­chu­setts. His wife, he notes, turned against lib­er­al pol­i­tics after 1968, and his own last, ill-con­sid­ered, gasp of my New Deal Demo­c­ra­t­ic antecedence” was vot­ing for Jim­my Carter in 1976. His tra­di­tion­al­ism was also reflect­ed in his his­tor­i­cal research. It focused on Amer­i­can law, pol­i­tics, and gov­ern­ment, and did not involve the issues of race, gen­der, and class which con­cern today’s social historians.
Edward Shapiro is pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry emer­i­tus at Seton Hall Uni­ver­si­ty and the author of A Time for Heal­ing: Amer­i­can Jew­ry Since World War II (1992), We Are Many: Reflec­tions on Amer­i­can Jew­ish His­to­ry and Iden­ti­ty (2005), and Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brook­lyn Riot (2006).

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