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About the Author

A prolific writer, Daniel Boorstin is the author of numerous scholarly and popular works in American Studies. Born in Georgia and raised in Oklahoma, Boorstin received degrees from Harvard and Yale universities and was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford. A member of the Massachusetts Bar, show more he has been visiting professor of American History at the Universities of Rome, Puerto Rico, Kyoto, and Geneva. He was the first incumbent of the chair of American History at the Sorbonne and Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge. He taught at the University of Chicago for 25 years. In 1959 Columbia University awarded him its Bancroft Prize for The Americans: The Colonial Experience (1958), the first volume of his trilogy titled The Americans. In 1966 he received the Francis Parkman Award for the second volume, The Americans: The National Experience (1965), and in 1974 he received the Pulitzer Prize for the third volume, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (1973). Many of Boorstin's books have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and various European languages. In 1969 Boorstin became director of the National Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1973 he became senior historian at the Smithsonian. Boorstin was appointed Librarian of Congress in 1975 and served in that position with distinction for 12 years, becoming Librarian Emeritus in 1987. (Publisher Provided) show less
Image credit: USCG photo by MILNES, PETE PA1 (cgvi.uscg.mil)


Works by Daniel Boorstin

We Americans (1975) 405 copies
An American Primer (1966) 237 copies
The Colonial Wars (1964) — Editor — 124 copies
The Americans (1991) 43 copies
Exploring Spirit (1976) 17 copies
Washington (1987) 3 copies
The World Encompassed (1981) 3 copies
A Nation of Readers (1982) 2 copies
Los descubridores IV (1901) 1 copy
IMAX: The Discoverers [1993 film] — Screenwriter — 1 copy

Associated Works

Democracy in America (1835) — Introduction, some editions — 5,588 copies
The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events (1946) — Foreword, some editions — 3,358 copies
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire {abridged by Mueller} (1781) — Introduction — 1,178 copies
Education of a Wandering Man (1989) — Introduction, some editions — 1,057 copies
Democracy in America, Volume 1 (1835) — Introduction, some editions; Introduction, some editions — 1,016 copies
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains (1879) — Introduction, some editions — 868 copies
Visiting Our Past: America's Historylands (1977) — Editorial Consultant — 364 copies
The Adams Chronicles: Four Generations of Greatness (1976) — Introduction — 310 copies
Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration (1991) — Contributor — 170 copies
The Response to Industrialism, 1885-1914 (1957) — Preface — 149 copies
Reading Rooms (1991) — Foreword — 129 copies
Jefferson's Books (1996) — Preface, some editions — 102 copies
Our World's Heritage (1987) 93 copies
The War of 1812 (1900) — Editor — 83 copies
The Sketchbooks of Hiroshige (2007) — Foreword, some editions — 49 copies
The golden door : artist-immigrants of America, 1876-1976 (1976) — Introduction — 24 copies
Earth '88: Changing Geographic Perspectives (1988) — Contributor — 13 copies
Books in Our Future: Prospectives and Proposals (1987) — Contributor — 6 copies


19th century (228) America (244) American (164) American history (1,032) art (161) art history (90) autobiography (76) biography (296) civilization (178) culture (118) democracy (242) essays (117) exploration (134) government (106) history (4,917) history of civilization (79) history of science (158) intellectual history (98) literature (86) memoir (128) non-fiction (1,592) own (84) philosophy (378) political philosophy (90) political science (226) political theory (116) politics (540) read (79) reference (509) religion (93) science (401) sociology (194) timeline (76) to-read (753) travel (170) unread (163) US (89) US history (187) USA (424) world history (376)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Boorstin, Daniel
Legal name
Boorstin, Daniel Joseph
Other names
Boorstin, Daniel J.
Date of death
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Place of death
Washington, D.C., USA
Cause of death
Places of residence
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Harvard University (BA|1934)
Balliol College, University of Oxford (BA|1936|BCL|1937)
Yale University (SJD|1940)
barrister (show all 8)
Librarian of Congress (1975-1987)
Boorstin, Jon (son)
Library of Congress
University of Chicago (Preston and Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor of History)
Swarthmore College
Authors League of America
American Studies Association (president | 1969-1970)
American Historical Association (show all 15)
National Museum of History and Technology (USA)
Organization of American Historians
International House of Japan
Colonial Society of Massachusetts
Authors Guild
Elizabethan Club
Cosmos Club
Inner Temple (1937)
Massachusetts Bar (1942)
Awards and honors
Charles Frankel Prize (1989)
Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award (Phi Beta Kappa)
National Book Award for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters (1989)
Rhodes Scholar (1934-37)
Order of the Sacred Treasure, First Class (1986)
Bowdoin Prize (1934) (show all 17)
Pulitzer Prize (1974)
American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1969)
American Philosophical Society (1981)
Bancroft Prize (1959)
Francis Parkman Prize (1966)
Golden Plate Award (1986)
Tulsa Hall of Fame (1989)
Oklahoma Book Award 91993)
Royal Historical Society
Dexter Prize (1974)
American Antiquarian Society (1969)



Daniel Boorstin and Jacques Barzun in Ancient History (April 2011)


I was surprised by how much the beginning is about religion. It starts with going over what different religions teach about how things came to be in existence. You definitively want the illustrated copy.
nx74defiant | 18 other reviews | Nov 13, 2023 |
This is a remarkable book about colonial life in America, presented in a fashion quite unlike most history books provide. Boorstin looks at various aspects of life - religion, literacy and literature, the press, the military - and examines them in turn, and paints a picture of life in the colonies as reflected in the activities of the colonists. It is an excellent way into the beginnings of American history, from a fresh and innovative perspective.
jumblejim | 2 other reviews | Aug 26, 2023 |
I read the Discoverers, the first book of Boorstin’s series several years ago (or maybe decades ago 😊.). I’m not sure why I waited so long to read another book of his series. The Seekers is the third and final book of the series (I plan on reading The Creators, the second book in the series, in the very near future.). I found the work to be a beautifully written and organized set of chapters, relating a hand picked set of “Seekers” (Individuals in their quest of understanding their world) and their individual points of view. With this read you not only learn of individual lives, but also the context and the world of their times. If you enjoy reading of the history of the Western view, this is a great one to start with.… (more)
stevetempo | 6 other reviews | Aug 13, 2023 |
LT The Americans: The National Experience, Daniel Boorstin, Vintage Books, 1965, 7/6/22-7/10/21 read in Calabash (second half); recommended by [if anybody], Where is hard copy? BCSA in history section 978-0-394

Theme: the making-of-a-nation history of American COMMUNITY (book one)—the versatiles-New Englanders, the transients-joiners, the upstarts-boosters, the rooted and uprooted-Southeners white and black; NATIONALITY (book two)—the vagueness of the land, American ways of talking, search for symbols, a spacious republic
Type: history with commentary
Value: 1-
Age: college
Interest: 1-
Synopsis/Noteworthy: like Warmth of Other Suns in showing where today’s country came from

35 Puritan The pulpit, not the altar, was the focus of the congregational church, for Puritans adored the Word
49 boosters Of the new space-free man there were two types: the Transients (or Joiners [one given to joining causes]) and the Upstarts (or Boosters [an enthusiastic promoter, one who tries to get excited by what they are doing]).
52 organizer The genius of a Columbus, a Vasco de Gama, a La Salle, a Magellan, a De Soto, was that of the organizer.
57-9 organizers Men living beyond the jurisdiction of government… …the leader of a traveling community had to be able to get things done… A host of actors combined to give the organizer a power he had seldom before held outside of military life or civil government… …what was needed was a shrewd and effective organizer. The transients’ leader had to bring a community into being and to inspire, wheedle, bribe, or threaten its members to the performance of unfamiliar asks on strange landscapes and against incalculable dangers. Flexibility, warmth, imagination, human breadth, and an encouraging voice were more in order than dignity, respectability or nobility…
65 communities From the beginning, communities existed here before there were governments to care for public needs or to enforce public duties.
66 constitution This same group then adopted a constitution and bylaws which opened in phrases reminiscent of the Federal Constitution and which left no doubt of their intention to establish a political community.
160 community colleges The distinctively American college was neither public nor private, but a community institution.
172-3 factor-wife He even, on occasion, tried to help a lonesome bachelor-planter who offered to marry “on fifteen days sight,” if the factor would ship with his other supplies, a young woman “of an honest family between twenty and twenty-five years of age; of a middle stature and well-proportioned, her face agreeable, her temper mild, her character blameless, her health good, and her constitution strong enough to bear the change of climate.”
174 not written laws This relationship, like so many others in the South, came to be governed by a code of honor, all the more rigid because not written down.
198 black preachers The local autonomy within the Baptist churches, by contrast with that of the Methodists, left the Negro preacher freer, and so helped account for the special appeal of the Baptists…
211 South reputation …while Southern gentlemen in the three decades before the Civil War boasted of their high-minded indifference to “public opinion” or the good opinion of the whole world, they respected nothing more than their local reputation, or the good opinion of their fellow Southern gentlemen.
308 speaking In this first national era, the “great orations” were widely recognized as the levers of American history and the formulae of American purpose…
314 education Education, too, became more and more declamatory as preachers dominated the new denominational colleges…
318 religion Big-city religion was dominated by the rhetoric of magniloquence: evangelical Protestantism, the first distinctively American religious movement of national proportions, made the spontaneous spoken word the key to religious experience.
328-9 literacy Not so in the United States. Here, from colonial times, literacy had been more widespread than in the mother country. … Davy Crockett was the most important and, for some time, the most widely known popular candidate for national hero-worship. … He had little education and little respect for book-learning; the rules of spelling, he said, were “contrary to nature.” As a judge (he did not know the meaning of the word “judiciary”) he “relied on natural-born-sense instead of law-learning.”
355 GW statute “Did anybody ever see Washington nude?” Nathaniel Hawthorne asked in 1858. “It is inconceivable. He has no nakedness, but I imagine he was born with his clothes on, and his hair powdered, and made a stately bow on his first appearance in the world.”
365-6 sum Some of the ablest searchers for symbols of a larger national past turned to biography. The immense popularity of Davy Crockett’s “Autobiography,” Weems’s George Washington, Wirt’s Patrick Henry, Tudor’s James Otis, and similar works, contrasted sharply with the meager demand for books about the whole national past.
369-71 Bancroft speech [George] Bancroft’s theme, as he summarized it in his oration on “The Necessity, the Reality, and the Promise of the Progress of the Human Race” (1854), was universal: The reciprocal relation between God and humanity constitutes the UNITY of the race… Our country is not more the recipient of the men of all countries than their ideas. Annihilate the past of any one nation of the world, and our destiny would have been changed. Italy and Spain, in the persons of COLUMBUS and ISABELLA, joined together for the great discovery that opened America to emigration and commerce; France contributed to its independence; the search for the origin of the language we speak carried us to India: our religion is from Palestine; of the hymns sung in our churches, some were first heard in Italy, some in the deserts of Arabia, some on the banks of the Euphrates; our arts came from Greece; our jurisprudence from Rome; our maritime code from Russia; England taught us the system of Representative Government; the noble Republic of the United Provinces bequeathed to us, in the world of thought, the great idea of the toleration of opinions; in the world of action, the prolific principle of federal union. Our country stands, therefore, more than any other, as the realization of the unity of the race. … Finally, as a consequence of the tendency of the race towards unity and universality, the organization of society must more and more conform to the principle of FREEDOM.
375 holidays In addition to these holidays on which the decisions of the states have coincided, there are at least fifty other days officially designated as legal or public holidays in one or more states…
385-6 Mecklenburg The “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence” (printed in many newspapers in in 1819) was a document supposedly adopted by a meeting of elected representatives at Charlotte in Mecklenburg County, NC, on March 20, 1775…
390 justification of existence …Americans had begun by assuming that, if there was to be a new nation here, it must be for good reasons and for a good purpose.
399 Burke-sovereignty Too few shared Edmund Burke’s vision of the power of history, of the impossibility of erasing the experience of liberty by the logic of “sovereignty.” “If that sovereignty and their freedom must be reconciled,” Burke warned, “which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face, nobody will be argued into slavery.” Burke was right.
400 congregationalism Congregationalism itself was a plan of confederation. [see p 35]
406 British constitutionalism And there was nothing more definite, nor more uncertain, than the British constitution; it was only another name for the way things really worked.
408 We the people Now approached a crucial test. Again and again political theorists had declared the people to be the source of power, and Americans had adopted the familiar British arguments. Now would Americans practice what they preached? The people, John Adams said, “must be all consulted, and we must realize the theories of the wisest writers, and invite the people to erect the whole building with their hands upon the broadest foundation.”
416 “USA” versus “national” It is no accident that neither “nation” or “national” appears anywhere in the Constitution…
421 USA colonialism The American colonial system, unlike the British, provided a normal progress from imperial control to self-government.
427 geography versus ideology The geographical constituency—not an ideological group nor an interest group—was to be the basic unit of American party politics.
427 federal …the American nation was not the product of any grand national passion, and the Constitution of the US was a precarious and novel arrangement—neither wholly federal nor wholly national.
428 many governmental positions-diffusion The Amercian party system could not have grown without the enthusiasm of thousands of party workers, often inspired by hope for a local office.
430 nationalizing influences … Political parties thus became one of the most effective nationalizing influences in Amercan life.
430 organization As in many other departments of American life—in religion, in education, in the very making of new communities—ideology was displaced by organization.
… (more)
keithhamblen | 2 other reviews | Jul 12, 2023 |



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