Conservatism: Early Conservatism
Coolidge: An American Enigma
Robert Sobel (Regnery, 1998)
Sobel’s biography rebuts the traditional account of Calvin Coolidge as a mediocre, do-nothing, reactionary president who only sought to help big business. Instead, Sobel argues, Coolidge was a skilled politician who adhered to his principles of limited government.
The Price of Freedom (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1924)
Foundations of the Republic (Ayer Company Publishers, 1926)
A collection of 28 wonderful speeches and addresses written by Coolidge between 1920 and 1923 (which covers his vice-presidency), as well as a prize essay he wrote at Amherst on the subject of the American Revolution and a veto message from his governorship. These writings confirm Coolidge as a serious thinker and sharp critic of Progressive ideas.
Popular Government: Its Essence, Its Permanence and Its Peril
William Howard Taft (Yale University Press, 1913)
A collection of ten lectures by the former president (and future chief justice), delivered at Yale University and the American Bar Association. The Yale lectures use the Preamble of the US Constitution to address issues like republicanism, Progressive direct democracy, broad federal powers, states’ rights, judicial recall, war powers, and diplomacy. The ABA lectures address judicial tenure and “judge-made” law.
Elihu Root and the Conservative Tradition
Edited by Oscar Handlin (Little Brown & Co., 1954)
A 1954 book on the life and career of Elihu Root, the formidable turn-of-the-century senator and statesman. Handlin situates Root, Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of state, as a member of the American conservative tradition. By doing so, Handlin sheds light on what it meant to be a conservative in the context of the early 20th century.
Conservatism: Modern Conservative Classics
The Road to Serfdom
F. A. Hayek (University of Chicago Press, 1944)
Described by The New York Times as “one of the most important books of our generation,” Hayek’s “little book” was the first defining philosophical work of the modern American conservative movement. Hayek describes the disturbing signs of collectivism all around him and proposes a different road—the road of individualism and classical liberalism.
Ideas Have Consequences
Richard M. Weaver (University of Chicago Press, 1948)
For many, Ideas Have Consequences is the fons et origo (source and origin) of the American conservative movement. Here, Richard M. Weaver traces the dissolution of Western thought and culture to the 14th century when the West abandoned its belief in transcendental values and accepted man as “the measure of all things.”
Memoirs of a Superfluous Man
Albert Jay Nock (Harper and Brothers, 1943)
Author-editor Albert Jay Nock was a radical libertarian of the 1920s and 1930s whose denunciations of the State and of unbridled materialism influenced such leading figures of the post-war Right. In Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, Nock reveals himself to be passionate in his anti-statism, and unyielding in his love for the classics and traditional education.
God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of “Academic Freedom”
William F. Buckley Jr. (Regnery, 1951)
In 1951, as a recent Yale graduate, William Buckley wrote this book to reveal the professors who were inseminating the minds of students with counter traditional values. Buckley charges that Yale’s values were agnostic as to religion, Keynesian as to economics, and collectivist as regards the relation of the individual to society and government.
The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Santayana
Russell Kirk (Regnery, 1953)
In this book, Russell Kirk’s overviews Anglo–American conservative thinking over the past 175 years. It is a defiant indictment of every liberal nostrum from human perfectibility to economic egalitarianism. The Conservative Mind made conservatism intellectually respectable in the modern era and gave the conservative movement its name.
In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo
Frank S. Meyer (Regnery, 1962)
In this work, Frank Meyer- an individualist who argued that “freedom of the person” was the primary end of political action - attempts to reconcile the philosophical differences between traditional conservatives and libertarians in an approach that was dubbed ‘fusionism.’ Both should acknowledge the true heritage of the West: “reason operating within tradition.”
Whittaker Chambers (Random House, 1952)
Whittaker Chambers was a veteran Soviet spy who became, in William F. Buckley Jr.’s words, “the most important American defector from Communism.” Published in 1952, Witness argues that America faces a transcendent, not transitory crisis; that the crisis is not one of politics or economics but one of faith; and that secular liberalism, the dominant “ism” of the day, is a watered-down version of Communist ideology.
The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order
Robert Nisbet (Oxford University Press, 1953)
Man’s fundamental desire for community, argues sociologist Robert Nisbet in this conservative classic, cannot be satisfied either by the centralized state or by unrestrained individualism. In order to live in freedom, man must revitalization of intermediate associations such as the family, the church, and the neighborhood—the “little platoons of life.”
Conservatism: Modern Conservative Politics and Movement
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945
George H. Nash (Basic Books, 1976)
This book is indispensable to an understanding of modern American conservatism. Part history, part biography, and part philosophical primer, Nash’s book shows how a brilliant group of scholars and writers—traditional conservatives, libertarians, and anti-Communists—slowly came together and by the 1960s had formed an intellectual movement.
The March of Freedom: Modern Classics in Conservative Thought
Edited and with commentaries by Edwin J. Feulner (Heritage Books, 2003)
The March of Freedom is a collection of 15 essays by exceptional thinkers like F. A. Hayek, Richard Weaver, Russell Kirk, and Milton Friedman. Ed Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, selected the essays and wrote an accompanying biographical essay on each thinker.
The Conscience of a Conservative
Barry Goldwater (Victor Publishing Company, 1960)
The Conscience of a Conservative is an essential work by a founding father of the modern conservative movement. Goldwater dismisses the idea that conservatism is out of date and addresses the issues that have dominated the national debate for decades: taxes, government spending, social security, law and order, and communism.
The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order 1964–1980
The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution
Steven F. Hayward (Crown Publishing, 2001 and 2009)
In the two volumes of Age of Reagan, Steven Hayward makes the man and his time one and the same. He argues that Reagan became President because of his extraordinary political skill, often underrated persistence, and unwavering conservative philosophy and because of the rapid decline of liberalism in the 1960s and 1970s.
Reagan, in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America
Ed. Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson, Martin Anderson (Free Press, 2001)
This selection of 670 radio commentaries the future President personally wrote and delivered between 1975 and 1979 reveal Reagan’s conservative vision for America: a vision of faith and freedom that would restore Americans’ confidence in themselves and their country.
Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea
Irving Kristol (Free Press, 1995)
In Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, Kristol traces the series of events in the late 1960s and early 1970s that jolted a small but influential group of old-fashioned liberals and forced them out of their no-longer-comfortable Democratic circumstances. These neoconservatives carried the conservative message to places where traditional conservative had not gone before.
Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto
Mark R. Levin (Threshold Editions, 2009)
Liberty and Tyranny is not a screed but an erudite work that defines conservatism as “a way of understanding life, society, and governance.” He calmly but firmly critiques statist policies in environmentalism, immigration, and the welfare state, proposing alternative approaches based on the free market and the rule of law rooted in the Constitution.
Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power
Lou Cannon (PublicAffairs, 2003)
Former Washington Post reporter Lou Cannon offers a perceptive and gracefully written account of Reagan’s gubernatorial years, as well as a brief description of his early years in radio and Hollywood, his almost successful run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, and his 1980 victory over President Jimmy Carter. Cannon knows Reagan as well as he knows politics, and the result is an outstanding political biography.
With Reagan: The Inside Story
Edwin Meese III (Regnery Gateway, 1992)
Ed Meese, Ronald Reagan’s most trusted aide and adviser, sticks to the facts in this memoir. Meese dismisses the suggestion that the president was “a mere puppet of his staff,” and he praises Reagan’s economic and national security accomplishments. With Reagan ends with a short chapter of reflections and recommendations that ought to be read by every policymaker in Washington.
Goldwater: The Man Who Made a Revolution
Lee Edwards (Regnery, 1995)
Barry Goldwater was an unlikely revolutionary and the most consequential presidential loser in American politics, as Lee Edwards recounts in his dramatic biography that often reads like a novel. Goldwater’s candidacy for president marked the beginning of a dramatic shift in American politics—from East to West, from the cities to the suburbs, from containment to liberation, from liberal to conservative—that continues to this day.
Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography
William F. Buckley Jr. (Regnery, 2004)
In Miles Gone By, Buckley offers a personally chosen selection of previously published writings that reveal what matters most to the founder of the modern American conservative movement: his family, his friends, and his travels. Buckley said he would never write a formal autobiography but hoped that Miles Gone By would serve “much the same purpose and that it will give pleasure.”
The Conservative Revolution: The Movement that Remade America
Lee Edwards (Free Press, 1999)
This political history of the modern conservative movement covers the period of ups and downs from the end of World War II through the late 1990’s. Edwards highlights the important roles played by Senator Robert Taft, Senator Barry Goldwater, President Ronald Reagan, and Speaker Newt Gingrich in conservatism’s ascendance. His conclusion: “The conservative revolution is here to stay.”
Conservatism: Online Resources
The Claremont Institute
The West Coast stronghold for constitutional conservatism, Claremont’s website includes essays, speeches, scholarly articles, recommended books, and a complete archive of the must-read Claremont Review of Books.
The online version of one of the conservative movement’s most influential publications, with content from the magazine as well as web-only essays, blog posts, and multimedia.
The Weekly Standard
The website for another influential conservative magazine, with content from both the magazine and the “Daily Standard” blog.
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
A resource for everything ISI: books published by ISI, complete archives of their outstanding journals, and video and audio files of ISI-sponsored lectures.
Launched in 2009, National Affairs has quickly acquired a reputation for promoting thoughtful conservative ideas in their longer-form essays. Their website also includes a blog “round-up” of recent academic studies.
The Public Papers of President Ronald Reagan
A database of President Reagan’s public papers, which can be searched by keyword or browsed chronologically. Also includes selected papers from his time as Governor of California and a list of his major speeches.