Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 9780226448862 Will Publish December 2021
E-book $29.99 Available for pre-order. ISBN: 9780226449050 Will Publish December 2021

A Conspiratorial Life

Robert Welch, the John Birch Society, and the Revolution of American Conservatism

Edward H. Miller

A Conspiratorial Life

Edward H. Miller

464 pages | 15 halftones | 6 x 9
Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 9780226448862 Will Publish December 2021
E-book $29.99 ISBN: 9780226449050 Will Publish December 2021
The first full-scale biography of Robert Welch, who founded the John Birch Society and planted some of modern conservatism’s most insidious seeds.
 
Though you may not know his name, Robert Welch (1899-1985)—founder of the John Birch Society—is easily one of the most significant architects of our current political moment. In A Conspiratorial Life, the first full-scale biography of Welch, Edward H. Miller delves deep into the life of an overlooked figure whose ideas nevertheless reshaped the American right.

A child prodigy who entered college at age 12, Welch became an unlikely candy magnate, founding the company that created Sugar Daddies, Junior Mints, and other famed confections. In 1958, he funneled his wealth into establishing the organization that would define his legacy and change the face of American politics: the John Birch Society. Though the group’s paranoiac right-wing nativism was dismissed by conservative thinkers like William F. Buckley, its ideas gradually moved from the far-right fringe into the mainstream. By exploring the development of Welch’s political worldview, A Conspiratorial Life shows how the John Birch Society’s rabid libertarianism—and its highly effective grassroots networking—became a profound, yet often ignored or derided influence on the modern Republican Party. Miller convincingly connects the accusatory conservatism of the midcentury John Birch Society to the inflammatory rhetoric of the Tea Party, the Trump administration, Q, and more. As this book makes clear, whether or not you know his name or what he accomplished, it’s hard to deny that we’re living in Robert Welch’s America.
 
Contents
Introduction
1 Chowan County, North Carolina 1700–1899
2 Stockton, 1899–1910
3 Elizabeth City, Raleigh, Annapolis, 1910–1919
4 The Candyman, 1919–1927
5 Professional Breakdown and the Great Depression, 1928–1940
6 America First, 1940–1945
7 Postwar Dreams and Delusions, 1946–1950
8 The Candidate, 1950
9 May God Forgive Us, 1951–1952
10 There’s Just Something about Ike, 1952
11 A Republican Looks at His President, 1953–1954
12 The Saga of John Birch, 1954
13 Adventures in the Far East, 1954–1955
14 Arrivals and Departures, 1955–1958
15 The Indy Eleven, 1957–1959
16 Revelations, 1959–1960
17 Goldwater in ’60, 1960
18 Staccato Jabs, 1961–1962
19 Succession? 1961–1962
20 “Where Were You in ’62?,” 1962
21 Revolution in the Streets and the Paranoid Style in Belmont, 1963
22 Two Novembers, 1963–1964
23 Nadir, 1965–1966
24 Avenging the Insiders, 1966–1968
25 The Fifty-Foot Cabin Cruiser, 1969–1975
26 Bunker, 1970–1978
27 Making Morning in America . . . , 1970–1985
Epilogue
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index


 
Review Quotes
Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland: America's Right Turn, 1976-1980
"The rise of Trump, Q-anon, and a Republican Party seemingly allergic to the ordinary canons of decency and expertise, has led historians to a reexamination of brands of American conservatism previously considered too extreme to be relevant to understanding the present. This work demands a rare combination of talents: an ability to empathize with ways of thinking from which reason recoils, and a moral sense that refuses to normalize it. Miller possesses both in abundance, which is what makes this groundbreaking biography of Robert Welch of the John Birch Society so very valuable."
Heather Hendershot, author of Open to Debate: How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on the Firing Line
“Miller has undertaken the definitive biography of John Birch Society founder Robert Welch, and he has succeeded. A Conspiratorial Life is incredibly thorough, carefully researched and written, and enlivened by energetic prose.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://press.uchicago.edu
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style

Keep Informed

JOURNALs