Will Durant lives “Through their volumes on the history of civilization, Will and Ariel Durant tapped into a large audience in the United States—readers that presumably had more than a vestigial interest in culture. The series paralleled the introduction of courses in Western Civilization by American colleges designed, as David Gress argued in From Plato to NATO, to make sense of the crisis brought on by World War I. By contrast, academics had long sought to ground their approaches to society and culture in scientific method with its prestige and claim to understanding. An older tradition of philosophical history as belle lettres did not suit this cultural moment.”
William Anthony Hay is professor of history at Mississippi State University and the 2019-20 Garwood Visiting Fellow for the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He is also the author of Lord Liverpool: A Political Life, and The Whig Revival, 1808-1830.