Lisa McGirr

"My one regret about being an Americanist," says Lisa McGirr, who has just been promoted to associate professor of history, "is...

"My one regret about being an Americanist," says Lisa McGirr, who has just been promoted to associate professor of history, "is that I love to travel abroad. I envy my colleagues who get to use the Vatican archives or explore Inca ruins in Peru." McGirr's Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, published last spring by Princeton, took her instead, again and again, to Orange County in southern California. Raised just outside of Manhattan, educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she was at work on a Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia when she made her first trip to sunny California to pore through local records and to interview ordinary people who considered themselves activists and whose grass-roots conservatism in the 1960s reconfigured the Republican Party and American political culture. She has begun work on a second book, about Prohibition, and one wonders into what shady terrain research for that will take her. She writes well and will doubtless report on the journey with verve. McGirr likes to run but hasn't much time for it, for when she isn't "on" as a historian, she wants to be with her sons, Noah and Pascal, 3 1/2 and 1, and her husband, Sven Beckert, Dunwalke associate professor of history, whose book The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 appeared, fortuitously, at the same time as hers. Both books, happily, were praised in early reviews. McGirr and Beckert, the first married couple in history in ladder positions in the history department, met at Columbia. That they got separate offers to come to Harvard in 1996 is a case of the wheel turning smoothly.  

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