As the director of the FBI for nearly half a century, John Edgar Hoover was the chief architect of the American security apparatus during a large chunk of the 20th century. A recognizable figure in popular memory, Hoover is also remembered for his fierce campaigns against Communism and his antipathy to civil liberties, which led to egregious abuses of power. In many ways, his career symbolized the dramatic rise of the security state in post-New Deal America.
What does J. Edgar Hoover’s life reveal to us about the evolution of federal power? How does his story revise our view of conservatism in 20th-century America? And what might his tenure tell us about our own times as the FBI increasingly comes in the crosshairs of partisan politics? In this episode, our host Ben Zdencanovic sits down with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Beverly Gage to discuss these questions.
Beverly Gage is the John Lewis Gaddis Professor of History at Yale University. Her book G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, a biography of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, received the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, the Bancroft Prize in American History, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, among other prizes. Professor Gage has also authored The Day Wall Street Exploded: A Story of America in its First Age of Terror. She writes for numerous journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, New York Times, and Washington Post.