Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction

In This Review

Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
By Walter Nugent
Oxford University Press, USA, 2009
160 pp. $11.95

Nugent's book accomplishes three important things in very few pages. First, it provides an irreproachable and clear summary of the conventional view of the American Progressive movement and its historical importance. Second, it shows that a serious scholar can produce a short book that is well written and makes its points effectively and completely. The world needs more books like this one, and Oxford University Press should be commended for producing this series of "very short introductions." Finally, Progressivism shows the limits of the conventional approach to the Progressive movement. Nugent is too close to the Progressives to see them whole; like most treatments of the movement, his book is written in part to pass the torch on to new generations. Although there is much to honor in Progressive history, upper-middle-class white progressivism (in both its northern and southern wings) had a much more complex relationship with both populism and urban labor movements than Nugent seems willing or able to describe. The study of progressivism will have reached a satisfactory point when a book as brief, clear, and elegantly organized as Nugent's can present a more nuanced picture of this vitally important element of U.S. history.