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Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early…

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford…

by Gordon S. Wood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Oxford History of the United States (4)

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9201114,593 (4.12)36

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» See also 36 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
The chaos and contradictions of the early American republic (if we can keep it), engagingly told through the lives of specific people, mostly but not entirely white men, famous and not. Reading about this era isn’t just a Hamilton thing for me at this point; it helps reassure me that Americans have always been this confused, vicious, and occasionally great, and that we can probably get through this too. I hope. ( )
  rivkat | May 31, 2016 |
It turns out, back in 1805, graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton thought they were entitled to positions of leadership in society by virtue of their superior level of enlightenment and cultivation, and back then, too,
what was then called the "middling sort" of people resented them for it.

200 years ago, these people were called "Federalists" and "Republicans," but really, plus ça change...
  benjamin.lima | Mar 21, 2016 |
Long and detailed history of a 26 year period, but I appreciated the book in that it neither struck a heavily patriotic or apologetic tone as a U.S. history book.This is part of an Oxford Series on U.S. History. I will definitely be seeking out the books covering other periods. ( )
1 vote stringsn88keys | Aug 7, 2012 |
This book provides a close look at a critical period in U.S. history, from 1789 to the 1815. The growth of the institutions of American government, and the disagreements around that growth, are brought to the forefront. It was in this period that the mechanisms set up by the constitution came into practice, and a discussion of that process has a great deal to say, I think, to current constitutional interpretation. I did not find it quite so gripping as the next two volumes of the Oxford series -- "What Hath God Wrought?" and "The Battle Cry of Freedom", but that relates to the subject matter. All in all, a key discussion of an important, if often ignored, period in our history. ( )
1 vote annbury | May 25, 2011 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's hard to beat Oxford University Press when it comes to authoritative yet lively looks at highly detailed periods in history; and here's their latest in their modern series about the history of America, written by former Pulitzer winner Gordon S. Wood and in this case covering just the years 1789 (when our modern Constitution was written) to 1815 (the end of the War of 1812, essentially a stalemate but the conflict that proved that Europe could no longer bully the US around). And indeed, this is one of the more fascinating periods of US history to look at, precisely because most Americans know so little about it; a quiet and inconsequential span at first glance (known conventionally as the years when America simply recovered from the Revolution), in actuality it was the 25-year period that saw the formation of the first political "parties" in human history, the collapse of the country's first attempt at federal administration (the "Articles of Confederation," which at first set up the US more like the current European Union, and was a complete disaster), and the quiet campaign to purge the new national government of the very radicals who helped the revolution succeed in the first place, whether radically liberal in nature (like Thomas Paine and his French-Revolution-loving pals, who wanted to do away with capitalism and the upper-class altogether) or radically conservative (such as Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist buddies, who promptly attempted to create a nobility-based "American ruling class" the moment the revolution was over, and were eventually shunned out of existence because of traitorous activity during the War of 1812).

Along the way, then, Wood shows us in glorious detail how this was also the period that first established the myth of the "Protestant work ethic," that first exalted the middle-class into the most important slice of American society, and that incidentally first established the rift between the industrial, everyman North and the agricultural, aristocratic South that would eventually explode into the Civil War, and that still heavily defines regional relationships to this very day, all of it told through a wealth of anecdotes and literally hundreds of pieces of trivia about early American history that I never knew. It's a doorstop of a book, don't get me wrong, but well worth the armchair historian's time, and I'm now thinking seriously about tackling all the rest of the volumes in this massive series as well.

Out of 10: 9.8 ( )
1 vote jasonpettus | May 4, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
On every page of this book, Wood’s subtlety and erudition show. Grand in scope and a landmark achievement of scholarship, “Empire of Liberty” is a tour de force, the culmination of a lifetime of brilliant thinking and writing.

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gordon S. Woodprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fass, RobertNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Green, TimCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kennedy, David M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Studios, AudiblePublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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During the second decade of the nineteenth century, writer Washington Irving developed an acute sense that his native land was no longer the same place it had been just a generation earlier.
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In Empire of Liberty, one of America's most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812.

As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life - in politics, society, economy, and culture. The men who founded the new government had high hopes for the future, but few of their hopes and dreams worked out quite as they expected. They hated political parties but parties nonetheless emerged. Some wanted the United States to become a great fiscal-military state, like those of Britain and France; others wanted the country to remain a rural agricultural state very different from the European states. Instead, by 1815 the United States became something neither group anticipated. Named a New York Times Notable Book, Empire of Liberty, part of The Oxford History of the United States series, offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.

The Oxford History of the United States is considered the gold standard for serious historians and general readers (and listeners) alike. Three of the titles have won the Pulitzer Prize for history; two have been Pulitzer Prize finalists, and all of them have enjoyed critical and commercial success.

NOTE: The individual volumes of the series have not been published in historical order. Empire of Liberty is number IV in The Oxford History of the United States.

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195039149, Hardcover)

Take a Look Inside the Empire of Liberty [Click on Images to Enlarge]

Empire of Liberty
George Washington (1732–1799): This portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1797 was the one rescued by Dolley Madison in 1814 when the British burned the White House.
(Library of Congress)
Empire of Liberty
Lyon-Griswold Brawl (1798): Outraged by this brawl on the floor of the House of Representatives, many concluded that Congress had become contemptible in the eyes of all “polite or genteel” societies. (Library of Congress)
Empire of Liberty
Washington, D.C. in 1801: The nation’s capital remained for years primitive and desolate, with muddy streets, a swampy climate, and unfinished government buildings that stood like Greek temples in a deserted ancient city. (Library of Congress)
Empire of Liberty
Capture of the City of Washington: In 1814 the British army set fire to many public buildings here. Although this was considered a violation of the laws of war, they were probably retaliating for the Americans’ burning of buildings in the Canadian capital, York (Toronto). (Library of Congress)
Empire of Liberty
Shakers: The name “Shakers” was originally pejorative, mocking the religious group’s rituals of trembling, dancing, and shaking. Their commitment to celibacy kept a rigid separation of the sexes, even in dancing, as this illustration shows. (Library of Congress)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Integrating all aspects of life, from politics and law to the economy and culture, "Empire of Liberty" offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.

» see all 2 descriptions

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