A history of American political parties
February 10, 2017 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a survey level overview on the history of American political parties. I'd prefer a book that begins with the Federalists and reaches to modern political parties.

I'm well-versed in US History (high school teacher/MA in US history), but I want to read about the major shifts, important political figures and issues involved in a straightforward, chronological approach.

Any books that focus in on particular era are welcome, as well.

I'm looking to construct a unit for my students that addresses political parties as a theme and I'm having a difficult time constructing the history this way, for whatever reason.
posted by Hop123 to Law & Government (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The main historical book that we read in my undergraduate course on American Party Politics was Richard Hofstadter's The Idea of a Party System, which covers the early development of political parties, and traces how we went from a founding generation that abhorred the idea of parties and partisanship (at least when other people did it) to having official parties with formal structures as an essential piece of our democratic infrastructure by the 1830s.
posted by firechicago at 1:01 PM on February 10, 2017

Sundquist's _Dynamics of the Party System_ maybe. It's pretty deeply out of date but that shouldn't make a big difference to the descriptive discussions of the early alignments.

Aldrich's _Why Parties?_ has a much more analytical approach to what was going on 1820-1860.

Both of them are poli-sci, not history.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:34 PM on February 10, 2017

I always recommend this book (seriously, check my history), but What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe is particularly good at tracing the history of the parties from the early Federalists and Democrat Republicans to the Whigs to the Democrats and finally the birth of the Republican party in the ashes of the Whigs. Also does a great job of showing how the two parties basically had the same arguments as they do (although they, er, changed sides). Also: the only real criticism of the book I've ever seen is that it paints Jackson too darkly. I find that feature and not a bug.

It also doubles as the best-written history book I've ever read.
posted by General Malaise at 5:46 PM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

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