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Henry Adams and the Making of America by…
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Henry Adams and the Making of America (2005)

by Garry Wills

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Wills decries our ignorance of Henry Adams great history of the early nineteenth century. (I fear I belong to the vast number of ignoramuses with regard to this work.) Wills sets out to rectify that nescience. Apparently, Adams even had a very different slant on the Jeffersonians, arguing that their four terms at the beginning of the 19th century provided for the development of a national unity that they seemingly eschewed publicly, ostensibly supporting a decentralized and weak government. In reality, Wills says Adams perspicaciously, says they began the development of American identity and empire. Of course, it's been my observation, especially given our most recent 8 years, that ideology always succumbs to a desire to consolidate power. I'm guessing that even Ron Paul would have pulled the reins a little tighter despite his rhetoric. Wills writes well and with erudition. Fascinating so far. Updates to follow.
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
A good adjunct to increasing my understanding of Henry Adams. It is well researched. This would be an excellent adjunct when reading Henry Adams Histories, which I hope to do one day. ( )
  brewbooks | Mar 13, 2010 |
Wills has written extensively about American history, generally using a focus on documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist papers, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address) to illuminate major figures, events and the cultural forces that shaped them. This book is ostensibly about Henry Adams' major work on the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison (available in the two volume Library of America edition), but it is actually a retelling of that period (1801-1817). Wills quotes from Adams, summarizes his narrative, explains his perspectives and something of Adams' methods, but adds much additional information and his own interpretation of Jefferson and Madison—as well as of John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, James Monroe, and others. This is not a substitute for reading Adams (yes, I know—at 2,700 pages most people would be glad of a substitute) but a companion volume, sort of a commentary and appreciation. If all you have read of Henry Adams is his often gloomy Education, you may be surprised at Adams' narrative skills. Wills deserves our appreciation for his attempt to resurrect a neglected masterpiece of historical writing, and a neglected period of our history. ( )
2 vote sweetFrank | Apr 9, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618134301, Hardcover)

One of our greatest historians offers a surprising new view of the greatest historian of the nineteenth century, Henry Adams.

Wills showcases Henry Adams's little-known but seminal study of the early United States and elicits from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixation, his extensive foreign travel, his political service in Lincoln's White House, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His nine-volume chronicle of America from 1800 to 1816 established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history.
Adams's innovations went beyond the technical; he posited an essentially ironic view of the legacy of Jefferson and Madison. As is well known, they strove to shield the young country from "foreign entanglements," a standing army, a central bank, and a federal bureaucracy, among other hallmarks of "big government." Yet by the end of their tenures they had permanently entrenched all of these things in American society. This is the "American paradox" that defines us today: the idealized desire for isolation and political simplicity battling against the inexorable growth and intermingling of political, economic, and military forces. As Wills compellingly shows, the ironies spawned two centuries ago still inhabit our foreign policy and the widening schisms over economic and social policy.
Ambitious in scope, nuanced in detail and argument, Henry Adams and the Making of America throws brilliant light on how history is made -- in both senses of the term.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:31 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In this new view of the greatest historian of the nineteenth century, historian Wills showcases Henry Adams's little-known but seminal study of the early United States and elicits from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixation, extensive foreign travel, political service in Lincoln's White House, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His chronicle established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history. Adams's innovations went beyond the technical; he posited an ironic view of the legacy of Jefferson and Madison: they strove to shield the young country from "foreign entanglements," a standing army, a central bank, and a federal bureaucracy, among other hallmarks of "big government"--yet by the end of their tenures they had permanently entrenched all of these things in American society. This is the "American paradox" that defines us today.--From publisher description.… (more)

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