Download The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United by Gordon S. Wood PDF

By Gordon S. Wood

The preeminent historian of the yank Revolution explains why it continues to be the main major occasion in our heritage.

greater than virtually the other state on the planet, the USA all started as an idea. therefore, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. wooden believes that the yankee Revolution is crucial occasion in our historical past, bar none. on account that American id is so fluid and never according to any universally shared background, we have now needed to regularly go back to our nation's founding to appreciate who we're. In The inspiration of America, wooden displays at the start of yankee nationhood and explains why the revolution is still so essential.

In a sequence of chic and illuminating essays, wooden explores the ideological origins of the revolution-from old Rome to the eu Enlightenment-and the founders' makes an attempt to forge an American democracy. As wooden finds, whereas the founders was hoping to create a virtuous republic of yeoman farmers and bored to death leaders, they as a substitute gave delivery to a sprawling, licentious, and materialistic well known democracy.

wooden additionally strains the origins of yankee exceptionalism to this era, revealing how the innovative new release, regardless of dwelling in , moderately populated nation, believed itself to be the main enlightened humans on the earth. The revolution gave american citizens their messianic experience of purpose-and possibly our endured propensity to advertise democracy round the world-because the founders believed their colonial uprising had common importance for oppressed peoples in every single place. but what could seem like audacity on reflection mirrored the truth that within the eighteenth century republicanism was once a very radical ideology-as radical as Marxism will be within the nineteenth-and one who certainly encouraged revolutionaries the realm over.

this day there exists what wooden calls a terrifying hole among us and the founders, such that it calls for nearly an act of mind's eye to totally recapture their period. simply because we now take our democracy with no consideration, it truly is approximately very unlikely for us to understand how deeply the founders feared their grand scan in liberty may perhaps evolve into monarchy or dissolve into licentiousness. Gracefully written and packed with perception, The inspiration of America is helping us to recapture the fears and hopes of the progressive iteration and its makes an attempt to translate these beliefs right into a operating democracy.

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Additional info for The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States

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Greene notes, “may appropriately be styled neo-whig,” has turned the Revolution into a rationally conservative movement, involving mainly a constitutional defense of existing politi­ cal liberties against the abrupt and unexpected provocations of the Brit­ ish government after 1760. ” Indeed, some of the neo-Whig historians have implied not just that social and economic conditions were less important in bringing on the Revolution than we once thought, but rather that the social situation in the colonies had little or nothing to do with causing the Revolution.

If we approach the past in this way, we become more aware of just how much people then were victims as well as drivers of the histori­ cal process. We come to realize that those in the past were restricted by forces that they did not understand nor were even aware of—forces such as demographic movements, economic developments, or large-scale cultural patterns. The drama, indeed the tragedy, of history comes from our understanding of the tension that existed between the conscious wills and intentions of the participants in the past and the underlying condi­ tions that constrained their actions and shaped their future.

And that is how history moves from one generation to another, exploding the previous generation’s illusions and conjuring up its own. If we approach the past in this way, we become more aware of just how much people then were victims as well as drivers of the histori­ cal process. We come to realize that those in the past were restricted by forces that they did not understand nor were even aware of—forces such as demographic movements, economic developments, or large-scale cultural patterns. The drama, indeed the tragedy, of history comes from our understanding of the tension that existed between the conscious wills and intentions of the participants in the past and the underlying condi­ tions that constrained their actions and shaped their future.

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