Rick Perlstein on the Influence of Garry WillsHistorians in the News
tags: conservatism, Rick Perlstein, Garry Wills
Rick Perlstein is the author of a series of books on the rise of the American right, sprawling works of narrative history that are both rigorously-researched and highly entertaining. Among them is Before the Storm, which examines the band of conservative activists who spearheaded Barry Goldwater’s failed 1964 Presidential campaign, and Nixonland, which chronicles how Richard Nixon exploited the backlash to the 1960s to forge a powerful new brand of conservative politics.
On today’s show, Rick talks about another historian who has deeply influenced him: Garry Wills. Wills is the author of more than fifty books, on subjects ranging from Augustine’s Confessions to John Wayne to Ronald Reagan. Like Rick, Wills began his career as a journalist and never received a PhD in history.
In our conversation, Rick and I talk about the qualities he most admires in Wills, among them his unpredictability and his lack of deference to power. We also discuss the importance of morality in both their work, and how Rick’s views of the conservative movement have evolved over time.
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