Robert Sean Wilentz
Image credit: © Daniel Kramer
Sean Wilentz studies U.S. social and political history. He received his Ph.D. in history from Yale University (1980) after earning bachelor’s degrees from Columbia University (1972) and Balliol College, Oxford University (1974). Chants Democratic (1984), which won several national prizes, including the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association, shows how the working class emerged in New York City and examines the changes in politics and political thought that came with it. It has recently been republished with a new preface in a 20th-anniversary edition. In The Kingdom of Matthias (1994), Wilentz and coauthor Paul Johnson tell the story of a bizarre religious cult that sprang up in New York City in the 1830s, exploring in the process the darker corners of the 19th-century religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Professor Wilentz is also the coauthor and coeditor of The Key of Liberty (1993) and the editor of several other books, including Major Problems in the Early Republic (1992) and The Rose and the Briar (2004, Greil Marcus coeditor), a collection of historical essays and artistic creations inspired by American ballads. His major work to date, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (2005), was awarded the Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent books are The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008, a reconsideration of U.S. politics since the Watergate affair, and Bob Dylan in America, a consideration of Dylan's place in American cultural history. A contributing editor to The New Republic, and a member of the editorial boards of Dissent and Democracy, Professor Wilentz lectures frequently and has written some three hundred articles, reviews, and op-ed pieces for publications such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the American Scholar, The Nation, Le Monde, and Salon. His writings on music have earned him a Grammy nomination and a Deems Taylor-ASCAP award. In his spare writing time, he is historian-in-residence at Bob Dylan’s official website.
In October 2012, Chronicle Books will publish Professor Wilentz's new book, 360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story, an illustrated history of the world's oldest recording company. He has begun work on a new project, a reconsideration of the abolition of slavery in the northern United States.
Professor Wilentz teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on U.S. history, focusing on the 19th century. He has also taught courses on American literature and 20th-century American culture and politics.