Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture, by Geoffrey Hughes, was published in 2010 by John Wiley & Sons. Hughes is an Oxford graduate and has published several books covering issues of language and profanity. Check out the Goodreads author page
This book is a text book; as such, it has several strong features. It provides not only a definition but also a concise history of political correctness and its origins; it also attempts to outline what Hughes calls “Zones of Controversy” – essentially a kind of catalog of offense.
The history presented in the book leans heavily on Europe, America and South Africa (the latter is not unexpected given Hughes’ connection to that country) while also leaning heavily on pegging the modern iteration of political correctness on Mao Tse-Tung (we’re going with Hughes’ spelling on that) and communist party orthodoxy. We appreciate Hughes’ history of political correctness in this modern context.
This book is not, however, a book which can stand alone. There isn’t nearly enough analysis of political correctness. The book isn’t adequately critical to stand alone. And honestly, the cataloging of offense gets tedious. The catalog may serve as a useful reference tool, but it isn’t interesting to read.
There are also several significant gaps in what Hughes might have covered ranging from public policy that might arguably have provided positive social change as a result of political correctness as well as positive counter-trends that developed in response to pc. The book does seem to be at least one fifth hobby-horse.
It is worth reading? Yes. Is there valuable history and sampling? Absolutely. This is a great companion book to a range of other material ranging from polemical tirades and free speech debates to analytical articles and more comprehensive histories.
Buy it if you can still find it.