Russell Kirk: American Conservative, by Bradley J. Birzer. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2015. 574 pp. $34.95.
Russell Kirk was one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American intellectual, cultural, and political life, and he has been the subject of a number of books. The most recent is a most impressive study by Bradley Birzer, Rusell Kirk: American Conservative. It has had a deservedly grand reception, including the Paolucci Book Award from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and many favorable reviews not only in academic journals but in such mass-circulation publications as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Professor Birzer’s book represents a major advance in Kirk scholarship and invites comparisons with earlier studies of Kirk. It more fully and successfully than any of the others conveys the scope, meaning, and magnitude of Kirk’s accomplishment. One of Birzer’s many strengths is his truly amazing command of the primary sources. His archival labors are those of an outstanding scholar and historian. What commands even more respect is his capacity for organizing and interpreting a vast amount of material and discerning the significance of particular pieces of evidence. Birzer remedies a number of common and sometimes serious inadequacies of earlier studies that interpret and assess Kirk as a thinker and a person.
The Birzer volume follows the publication of four other major Kirk studies, which suggests the vitality and breadth of Kirk scholarship. The first systematic study of Kirk to appear was James Person’s highly…
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