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Top Young Historians: Julian Zelizer

Julian Zelizer, 12-5-05

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Professor of History, Boston University and Faculty Associate, Center for American Political Studies, Harvard University.
Formerly: Associate Professor, Department of History, State University of New York at Albany (Joint Appointment with Department of Public Administration and Policy), Affiliated Faculty, Center of Policy Research, State University of New York at Albany.
Area of Research: 20th century U.S. political history
Education: Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1996
Major Publications: On Capitol Hill: The Struggle to Reform Congress and its Consequences, 1948-2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945-1975 (Cambridge University Press, 1998; paperback edition 2000).Julian Zelizer JPG Editor, New Directions in Policy History (Penn State Press, 2005). (This book was previously published as a special issue of the Journal of Policy History); Editor, The American Congress: The Building of Democracy(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004) and Co-Editor, The Democratic Experiment: New Directions in American Political History (Princeton University Press, 2003). Zelizer is also a co-editor for the Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America series of Princeton University Press and on the Editorial Board of The Journal of Policy History.
Current projects include; Chicken Hawks and Lonely Doves: How Eight American Presidents Struggled with Conservatism and the Legacy of Vietnam. (Book Manuscript under contract with Yale University Press), and Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s. Co-editor with Bruce Schulman. (Book Manuscript, under contract with Harvard University Press).
Awards: Zelizer’s Taxing America was the winner of the Organization of American Historians 2000 Ellis Hawley Prize for Best Book on the Political Economy, Politics, and Institutions of the United States and winner of the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation’s 1998 D.B. Hardeman Prize for Best Publication on Congress.
The Harry Middleton Fellowship in Presidential Studies, Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, 2005.
Mellon Visiting Senior Scholar, University of Cambridge, 2004.
Research Fellow, The Brookings Institution, 1995-1996.
Additional Info: Zelizer has appeared on national television (History Channel, Fox Television, C-SPAN), commercial and public radio, and newspapers such as The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Sacramento BeeThe Los Angeles Times, and The Albany Times Union.
Zelizer is working with BU colleague Bruce Schulman on establishing an Institute of Political History at Boston University.
Zelizer has been named to the board of directors of the Dirksen Congressional Center, a nonprofit research and educational institution that focuses on the history of Congress.

Personal Anecdote

The Ford Foundation Fellowship was a terrific experience for me, intellectually and professionally. James Kloppenberg and I would meet regularly, including for lunches and dinners, and he worked very closely with me for two years. I had the opportunity to dig into the archives of Massachusetts to complete a substantive piece of historical research. The experience had a major impact on me and helped me decide to pursue this career. I also learned early on how historical research could be used to tackle contemporary questions. To this day, I have continued to work closely with undergraduates interested in conducting their own historical research.

I have always been inspired by interdisciplinary approaches to History, although I remain a historian at heart. I first encountered this way of thinking while I was a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution, where I regularly dined and met with fellow political scientists, economists, and sociologists who were working on similar issues from radically different perspectives. During those years, I formed several terrific friendships that have continued to this day. My first publication was also in a volume on the history of taxation since WWII, published by Cambridge University Press and the Woodrow Wilson Center. During the seminars leading up to the book, I was required to present my chapter to quite vigorous questioning at this stage in my career, by prominent scholars like Herbert Stein, another contributor who worked as an economist in Richard Nixon’s administration.

Sometimes my youth has brought unexpected benefits. Every day, I purchase a salad for lunch at the Boston University food court. One day, I bought my salad right after a colleague and realized that I had been charged about 25 cents less. When I asked the cashier why I had been charged less, she said that was the undergraduate price! It turns out there is a two price system. Since that time, I have lost my discount.


By Julian Zelizer

  • “Reform is the work of the tortoise, not the hare. Whereas popular accounts often suggest that one large scandal or piece of legislation is capable of fundamentally changing how government works, reform is a thoroughly historical process that is messy, slow, and involves multiple institutitions . . . The narrative about congressional reform takes place in fits and starts. The changes were not inevitable or automatic; they resulted from a fierce and protracted struggle.” — Julian Zelizer in On Capitol Hill

About Julian Zelizer

  • “Julian Zelizer’s remarkable book offers us nothing less than a hidden history of our times, a parallel universe that explains why Congress was able to enact some of the most APSA Legislative Studies Section Newsletter, and why other equally popular bills were consigned to the dustbin. If the action takes place well within the beltway, Zelizer demonstrates that the impact of procedural reform in the Congress has had enormous consequences all across the land. This book is essential reading, not just for policy historians, but for all those concerned with American labor, race, media, and political culture during the last half of the 20th century.” — Nelson Lichtenstein, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • “Zelizer’s work is an important contribution to the literature on Congress. Besides being informative, it also is a highly entertaining read.” — Perspectives on Political Science
  • “Zelizer is a legend here. I have a friend who comes in from Harvard just to sit on his lectures. Best experience I have had in 4 years! And he is a really cool guy” … “AMAZING! Zelizer is the nicest, most interesting professor and it is evident that he cares about the success of his students. Brings us cookies every week!!! Oh yeah and is attempting to get our entire class tickets to the Phil Lesh concert!” — Anonymous Students