John Willson

About John Willson

John Willson is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. He is professor of history emeritus, Hillsdale College. His work has been published in Modern Age, Imprimis, and the University Bookman, and he contributed to Reflections on the French Revolution. Dr. Willson is past President of the Philadelphia Society.

Progressivism, School Safety, and Common Sense

By |2018-03-15T01:01:07-05:00March 14th, 2018|Categories: 2nd Amendment, Culture, Education, John Willson, Politics|

There is something uniquely awful about children getting gunned down. But in terms of school security, the good news is that we are still free enough to use existing laws and institutions to experiment in states and local communities, in government and private schools, to see what works… One principle that should unite all [...]

An Imaginative Conservative’s “Man of the House”

By |2017-05-17T23:27:21-05:00May 17th, 2017|Categories: Books, C. R. Wiley, Family, John Willson, Virtue|

The theme of C.R. Wiley’s “Man of the House” is that the Great Progressive Fallacy—the individual is the moral center of the culture, and that the state is the individual’s protector—serves only the forces of destruction… Man of the House: A Handbook for Building a Shelter that will Last in a World that is [...]

Yes, America First! Notes on the End and Beginning of an Age

By |2016-11-05T21:17:34-05:00November 5th, 2016|Categories: American Republic, Donald Trump, Presidency|

Meg Greenfield, the liberal (1950s style) boss of The Washington Post’s editorial page for the last quarter of the twentieth century, gave the name “The Nixon Generation” to people of her age cohort (born ca. 1928-44).  “What distinguishes us as a group,” she wrote, “is that we are too young to remember a time [...]

What Do Conservatives Do with Donald Trump Now?

By |2016-05-13T16:58:29-05:00May 4th, 2016|Categories: Donald Trump, Forrest McDonald, John Willson, Politics, Presidency, Republicans|

“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” —Sun-tzu, ca. 400 BC; or Machiavelli, 1520 AD (maybe) —Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part II, 1974 (certainly) Forrest McDonald, the greatest historian of the era of the American War for Independence and the making of our early governments, and who left us much poorer in this world [...]

Stephen Masty, R.I.P.— Imagining the Epiphany

By |2016-01-08T05:18:30-05:00January 8th, 2016|Categories: Christianity, Death, John Willson, Literature, Stephen Masty|

Editor’s Note: Stephen Masty, a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative, passed away December 26th at the age of sixty-one. We pay tribute to him with this essay by John Willson, who was Steve Masty’s teacher at Hillsdale College and who eventually became Steve’s student. They have been friends for forty years. The Test of [...]

Poverty & the Pursuit of Happiness: Arthur Brooks’ “Conservative Heart”

By |2015-12-04T08:07:09-05:00November 17th, 2015|Categories: Books, Featured, Happiness, John Willson, Modernity|

The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, by Arthur C. Brooks (Broadside Books, 2015) The great Elton Trueblood, who really did write about happiness, said many times that you can write a book of any length, but if you want people to read it, make it around 100 [...]

Uncle Put & the American Paradox of Individualism & Community

By |2019-07-03T13:39:12-05:00November 13th, 2015|Categories: American Republic, Featured, History, John Willson, Literature|

The last clear memory I have of my great-uncle Atwood Putnam (yes, his ancestors were those Putnams, including “Old Wolf” Israel, but we never got any of the money—well, more about that later) was of him chasing several of his great-grandchildren down the gravel driveway that led to his shack, barefoot, floppy red felt [...]

Do We Really Understand What an Economy Is?

By |2019-06-06T18:33:03-05:00September 21st, 2015|Categories: Economics, Essential, Faith, Family, Featured, Forrest McDonald, John Willson, Timeless Essays|

(Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join John Willson as he examines an "economy" and what that really means. —W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher) M. Stanton Evans once said, in defense of free markets: “It all depends on how prosperous you want to be.” Prosperity, most of us [...]

Homosexual Marriage & the Modern Corporation

By |2015-07-20T18:23:31-05:00July 21st, 2015|Categories: Culture, Homosexual Unions, Supreme Court|

I remember talking with a neighbor back in 1970 or so, telling him how my wife had written this blistering letter taking Sears, Roebuck to task for their immoral and incompetent handling of our account. He said, “That’ll show ‘em.” If you are truly an Imaginative Conservative, you will understand that he was right, despite [...]

Great and Not So Great Society

By |2017-07-12T23:16:09-05:00May 31st, 2014|Categories: Featured, John Willson, Politics, Presidency|

Presidency, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics. Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary The history of the American Presidency from George Washington to Barack Obama is the single most convincing empirical argument against the theory of evolution. – Paraphrased/plagiarized from several wise observers; often said about Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, [...]

Forever Young: Kent State, “Ohio”

By |2014-05-24T10:04:52-05:00May 14th, 2014|Categories: John Willson, Politics, Tyranny|

Glenn Frank One of our great cultural temptations since the 1960s is to think of songsters as poets. Stephen Foster never claimed to be, nor did Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, or Oscar Hammerstein. Suddenly, in the 60s, the likes of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, David Crosby and (slightly later) Bruce Springsteen moved [...]

Gerhart Niemeyer, Refugee

By |2017-12-09T13:26:15-05:00January 30th, 2014|Categories: Christianity, Gerhart Niemeyer, John Willson, World War II|

Brad Birzer was thinking, the other day, about intellectual refugees from Nazi Germany and other parts of Nazi-controlled Europe during the years leading up to and including World War II. He asked me if I knew Gerhart Niemeyer’s story. I told him that I do, from Gerhart’s son Paul’s loving and very competent biography [...]

Football: Bastion of the Republic

By |2014-09-22T14:02:35-05:00December 23rd, 2013|Categories: Culture, John Willson, Sports|

I came across this the other day, from the Washington Times: Kids flee football in light of NFL violence, Pop Warner participation plummeting. The author is Nathan Fenno, and I hasten to say that I am the last man in the world to wish to kill the messenger. His article is on the whole fair, [...]

John Lukacs’s Valediction

By |2013-11-19T06:06:25-05:00November 18th, 2013|Categories: John Lukacs, John Willson|Tags: |

John Lukacs and Wendell Berry This is the best introduction to the historical craft of John Lukacs. History and the Human Condition does not replace the much longer Remembered Past, a wide-ranging selection of Lukacs’s works also published by ISI Books. But this work, a coda to the author’s career, contains just the right mixture [...]