"Church and State in the City is a tour de force by a master historian. It places the Catholic Church at the forefront of an analysis which shows how San Francisco developed a moderate liberal political culture after the 1890s. The story is one of patient consensus building amongst a set of political actors which included the Church, the Communist Party, regular labor unions, business spokesmen, Republicans, Democrats, builders, planners, and neighborhood activists. Issel’s book is especially apt at describing the myriad demographic and cultural forces which formed a new politics that replaced this essentially New Deal politics, post 1980."-- Roger Lotchin, Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of The Bad City in the Good War: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego
"Issel’s extensively researched study puts Catholics and Catholic values at the center of San Francisco’s public policy–making process throughout much of the 20th century and thereby challenges nearly all recent studies of the city’s political history. It is therefore a must read not only for the history of San Francisco, but also for twentieth-century urban history more generally."
Thanks to Issel’s book, we have a clear account of the multi-generational Catholic activists, most of them from the Mission District, who did so much to shape the specific contours of the liberal growth political establishment, but also helped save the City and the Bay Area from some of the worst possible outcomes of unfettered development.
"[The book] restores the Catholic role in San Francisco’s development through the 1960’s to its rightful place in the city’s history.... Issel convincingly shows that Catholic institutions shaped San Francisco’s history far more than is understood. And from its backing of unions, civil rights, and the needs of the very poor, the Catholic Church fulfilled its mission of working for San Francisco’s greater good."
"William Issel's latest book, Church and State in the City, provides an important missing chapter in the telling of the history of San Francisco.... [It] is a 'must'--both for its content and its wealth of references--for any historians whose research is focused on San Francisco. It will make many readers rethink what they thought they knew about the evolution of the city politic and what place religion has played in San Francisco's social, economic, and cultural evolution."
"Issel is concerned with highlighting the importance of Catholic Christianity in the political culture of 20th-century San Francisco. He accomplishes this through a critical, contextualized narrative of various issues in the city's history (1890s-1970s) in which Catholic faith-based politics contributed to defining the city's 'common good.'... Even though Issel's coverage of San Francisco's political history is not comprehensive, his narrative is densely detailed..... this solid book is worth adding to California, religious, and urban collections. Summing Up: Recommended."
"Issel's book represents a fairly new and intriguing thrust among historians to chart religion and politics at local municipal levels."
"The book goes into great detail about the involvement of the Church in the various labor strikes that occurred in San Francisco during the twentieth century, making this a valuable book for those interested in labor history. This is a well-written and complete piece of scholarship that greatly illuminates the involvement of the Catholic Church in the public policy debates of the twentieth century. Although focused on San Francisco, it clearly places the events there in a national and international context as well as giving clear descriptions of the personalities and events that shaped the dynamics of the relationship between the Church and the urban political developments. This is a recommended book for undergraduate and graduate studies in both the History of American Catholicism and Urban History."
"[E]xhaustively researched and well-written.... Issel has made a strong case for the interaction of faith and politics in the City by the Bay.... [and] has done a commendable job in presenting a revisionist history of twentieth-century San Francisco...[The book] is richly contextualized and well organized; Issel has an engaging narrative style.... [He] has made a significant contribution to the history of San Francisco as well as Church-state issues."
"[An] intriguing history of twentieth-century San Francisco.... Issel has written a complex account of contests (and alliances) among Catholics, labor activists, leftists and business interests to define the public interest.... A particularly interesting chapter on women’s activism showcases one strength of the book – its compelling mini-biographies – by using the careers of four women to illustrate their competing visions of the public good in this pivotal decade.... Church and State in the City forms part of an exciting new trend in which scholars are bringing religion from the margins to the center of political history. Moving beyond a tired dynamic in which the Catholic Church in particular is either absent from the story, or vilified as a conservative force that discouraged workers from joining transformative left-wing movements, historians are recognizing the complex ways in which religious institutions and their members influenced public life. Issel’s convincingly argued and meticulously researched book is a welcome addition to this field. His book is a must-read for any advanced student of urban, Catholic and political history in twentieth-century America."
—American Catholic Studies
"In Church and State in the City the venerable historian William Issel provides an in-depth examination of the juxtaposition of Catholic teaching—both social and economic—and the search for a vision of the public interest as it played out in San Francisco’s public policy–making debates from the 1890s to the 1970s.... [T]his impressive political history of twentieth-century San Francisco will be fruitful reading for any student interested in urban history in general, or group-based politics in particular."
"William Issel integrates religious, political, and economic history into a largely persuasive interpretation of San Francisco's history that places religion at the center of public life from the twentieth century's earliest years to its final decades.... The work draws deeply from Issel's lifetime study of San Francisco, and the result is an impressively detailed exploration of those whose voices rose to significance in the debates.... Readers...will no doubt appreciate Issel's thorough presentation of the way one religious denomination helped to steer a significant American city as its residents sought to define and work toward the common good."