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Nancy Isenberg

Historian and author of White Trash

  • About Nancy Isenberg

    Nancy Isenberg is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at Louisiana State University. She is the author of Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize in Biography. She first established herself as a scholar of the women’s rights movement with Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America, recipient of the 1999 “best book” prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. More recently, she coauthored with Andrew Burstein the bestselling Madison and Jefferson.

    In her newest book, White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Isenberg reveals the class system as it has existed from the Age of Sail to the Age of the Internet. Surveying politics, popular literature, and scientific theories across the centuries, Isenberg upends many long-held assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society — where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure social mobility. Although marginalized as a class and banished to the hinterlands, so-called “white trash” have actually been at or near the center of major debates over the character of the American identity for a very long time. With the appearance of this landmark book, we are obliged to face uncomfortable truths about the enduring, malevolent nature of class-based injustice.

    Isenberg is a regular contributor to and has published in The Nation, The Washington Post, and the Journal of American History. She has given lectures at Monticello, Montpelier, the American Philosophical Society, the Grolier Club, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Charlottesville, Virginia.

  • Speaking Topics

    White Trash and the Meaning of Class in America

    Aaron Burr and the Seductive Allure of Founders’ Mythology

    Thomas Jefferson and the Curious Legacy of Breeding in American Identity

    Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America

  • Video

  • Praise for Nancy Isenberg

    Praise for White Trash

    A gritty and sprawling assault on…American mythmaking.

    Washington Post

    This eye-opening investigation into our country’s entrenched social hierarchy is acutely relevant.

    O Magazine

    ...a book that should forever change the way we think and talk about class, which Isenberg suggests is the rotting stage upon which American democracy will either stand or fall.

    The American Scholar eloquent synthesis of the country’s history of class stratification, one that questions whether the United States is indeed a place where
    all are created equal. White Trash powerfully unites four centuries of history — economic, political, cultural, and pseudo-scientific —
    to show how thoroughly the notion of class is woven into the national fabric.

    The Boston Globe

    This sweeping and erudite assault on the myth of a classless America illuminates the persistence of ‘waste’ people in American political ideology and popular culture…Nancy Isenberg makes the spirited case that…a feared and despised underclass has been a defining characteristic of America since its earliest settlement.

    Amy Greenberg, author of A Wicked War

    With characteristically deep research and provocative insights, Nancy Isenberg reveals the pivotal role of the white poor in American history…White Trash will change the way we think about our past and present.

    T.J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Custer's Trials

    Praise for Madison and Jefferson

    Satisfyingly rich dual biography promotes Madison from junior partner to full-fledged colleague of the 'more magnetic' Jefferson. An important, thoughtful, and gracefully written political history from the viewpoint of the young nation's two most intellectual founding fathers.

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    A dual account of uncommon merit...[and] a superb book that greatly deepens our understanding of these founders.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    Praise for Fallen Founder

    Isenberg's meticulous biography reveals a gifted lawyer, politician and orator who championed civility in government and even feminist ideals, in a political climate that bears a marked resemblance to our own.

    The Washington Post

    Full of insight and new research. It is an important and engaging account

    The New York Times Book Review
  • Books by Nancy Isenberg

  • Media About Nancy Isenberg

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and Availability

  • 212 572-2013
  • Nancy Isenberg travels from Baton Rouge, Louisiana & Carlottesville, Virginia

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