University of Rochester

Robert B. Westbrook

Position: Joseph F. Cunningham Professor of History

Field: American History

Specialty: Modern American history

Education: PhD, Stanford University, 1981

Curriculum vitae

Contact Info

440 Rush Rhees Library
Dept. of History
Rochester, NY 14627-0070

phone: 585.275.9349
fax: 585.756.4425

Fields of Interest:

I am principally an historian of the modern United States (1865-Present), though I do some teaching in modern European history. 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. This indifference to such roadblocks is reflected in the courses I teach, as well as my writing. These diverse interests are reflected as well in the dissertations I have advised. My transnational concerns are reflected in writing and teaching 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 Bookforum.

Graduate Fields:

I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Graduate Overview" page in the Graduate Handbook.

Teaching Field:
Modern United States (US II)

Research Fields:
American Cultural History (American History)
American Intellectual History (American History)
Modernity and Modernism (Transnational)

I will not be accepting students for admission in Fall 2017.

Courses Offered:

Representative Publications:

  • John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991). Amazon»
  • In Face of the Facts: Moral Inquiry in American Scholarship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Amazon»
  • Why We Fought: Forging American Obligations in World War II  (Washington: Smithsonian Press, 2004). Amazon»
  • Democratic Hope: Pragmatism and the Politics of Truth (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005). Amazon»
  • "This Land Is Your Land: American Cultural Nationalism, 1929-1941" in Ichiro Takayoshi, ed., American Literature in Transition, 1929-1941 (New York: Cambridge, 2017).
  • "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.
  • "Pragmatists and Politics: The Richards Bernstein and Rorty," Raritan 32 (2013): 104-122.
  • "MLK's Manifesto: Letter from Birmingham Jail at 50," Christian Century (17 April 2013): 22-27.
  • "History and Moral Inquiry," Modern Intellectual History, 9 (2012): 389-408.