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Extended Audio Sample Alger Hiss and the Battle for History Audiobook, by Susan Jacoby Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (32 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Susan Jacoby Narrator: Laural Merlington Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2009 ISBN: 9781400181551
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Books on Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss abound, as countless scholars have labored to uncover the facts behind Chambers's shocking accusation before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the summer of 1948-that Alger Hiss, a former rising star in the State Department, had been a Communist and engaged in espionage. In this highly original work, Susan Jacoby turns her attention to the Hiss case, including his trial and imprisonment for perjury, as a mirror of shifting American political views and passions. Unfettered by political ax-grinding, the author examines conflicting responses, from scholars and the media on both the Left and the Right, and the ways in which they have changed from 1948 to our present post–Cold War era. With a brisk, engaging style, Jacoby positions the case in the politics of the post–World War II era and then explores the ways in which generations of liberals and conservatives have put Chambers and Hiss to their own ideological uses. An iconic event of the McCarthy era, the case of Alger Hiss fascinates political intellectuals not only because of its historical significance but because of its timeless relevance to equally fierce debates today about the difficult balance between national security and respect for civil liberties. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Fascinating, accessible, and persuasive, Susan Jacoby makes it clear why the Hiss case and the diverse responses to and uses of it matter. Harvey J. Kaye, author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America
  • “There is a lifetime of erudition—about American society, the Soviet Union, and the way people bend their perceptions to fit their beliefs—in this wise and careful look at an episode that for decades inspired heated diatribes. Jacoby points out that those of us who don’t believe in Hiss’ innocence should still care about the issues of civil liberties that the case raised—and which are still highly relevant today.”

    Adam Hochschild, New York Times bestselling author of To End All Wars

  • “[The] book is most memorable for the passion with which Jacoby trumpets certain sensible but often overlooked truths.”

    Washington Post

  • “[Jacoby’s] ostensible subject is the still-controversial espionage trial of Alger Hiss, but her brisk and persuasive study is, more generally, a reminder that a contested historical event can be misunderstood and misused by both sides. The Hiss trial, far from being a matter for the history books, vividly reflects present-day disagreements about patriotism and dissent in wartime.”

    Barnes&Noble.com, editorial review

  • “Narrator Laural Merlington briskly renders the long sentences and complex phrases at a pace agreeable for most audiobooks, but the avalanche of information coming at such a speed may require occasional rests. Her neutral, disciplined approach interprets this nonchronological history with only a hint of inflection, a method preferred by many fans of nonfiction…She has excellent diction and the ability to pronounce the vast vocabulary to near perfection.”


  • “Fascinating, accessible, and persuasive…Susan Jacoby makes it clear why the Hiss case and the diverse responses to and uses of it matter.”

    Harvey J. Kaye, author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 David Wardell | 1/12/2012

    " Tries to be balanced and doesn't really succeed. An overview of the Hiss affair--concludes he was probably guilty of something, but likely not what people assume. Not really fulfilling whatever side you take. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Aaron Finestone | 9/30/2011

    " This book is a review, not a history. She makes several mistakes in recounting the history of the Hiss case. Light reading for a Cold War junkie. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jennie | 12/2/2010

    " Her overall argument just isn't that interesting/profound. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Daddio | 9/4/2009


    Unwinds an interesting episode in post war, HUAC, Communism/Socialism in US history

    Their still setting up the same bogey men[health care debate:] to knock down...

    Worth reading the last chapters if only to see the roots of the Neo-con movements... "

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About the Author

Susan Jacoby is an independent scholar and the bestselling author of almost a dozen books, including Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, which was named a Notable Book of 2004 by the Washington Post and theTimes Literary Supplement. Her book The Age of American Unreason was a New York Times bestseller in 2008.

About the Narrator

Laural Merlington is an audiobook narrator with over two hundred titles to her credit and a winner of multiple Earphones Awards. An Audie Award nominee, she has also directed over one hundred audiobooks. She teaches college in her home state of Michigan.