Thursday, July 19, 2012

A parties timeline

Susan Schulten has a new blog called Mapping the Nation, which is a companion to her new book of the same name, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press. In a recent post, she highlights Walter Houghton's mesmerizing timeline called "Conspectus of the History of Political Parties," made in 1880. You can see an image of it below, but there are more detailed images on Susan's blog. It was an attempt to show all the key details of the federal government in its first century. (I have a copy up on my office wall.)

The details are great, but one of the things that stands out to me is that the idea of a government permanently divided between Republicans and Democrats was a pretty new concept at the time this was drawn up. Parties had come and gone, with the major ones usually only lasting a few decades. That the parties warring for power in 1876 would be the same ones (more or less) doing so in 2012 would likely have seemed pretty remarkable to political observers at the time.


  1. Related, though not quite as insightful about the times, are these from Timeplots:

  2. Yeah, but the Republicans and Democrats have essentially switched sides. The GOP of today more closely resembles the Democrats of 1876 and the Dems of today are more like the Federalists, Whigs or 19th century Republicans.

  3. MTracy, yes, on many issues (notably civil rights and labor), they have totally switched sides. On others (such as the assimilation of immigrants), they are roughly as they were 150 years ago. On yet other issues (government intervention in the economy, the role of religion in politics, etc.), the story is much murkier.

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