Empire of Liberty

Empire of Liberty

A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Book - 2009
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The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in the newest volume in the series, one of America'smost 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 politicalparties 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 somethingneither group anticipated. Many leaders expected American culture to flourish and surpass that of Europe; instead it became popularized and vulgarized. The leaders also hope to see the end of slavery; instead, despite the release of many slaves and the end of slavery in the North, slavery wasstronger in 1815 than it had been in 1789. Many wanted to avoid entanglements with Europe, but instead the country became involved in Europe's wars and ended up waging another war with the former mother country. Still, with a new generation emerging by 1815, most Americans were confident andoptimistic about the future of their country.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.
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
ISBN: 9780195039146
Branch Call Number: 973.4 Woo
Characteristics: xix, 778 pages : illustrations, maps.


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IndyPL_JordanH Jun 24, 2019

Wood’s reputation as an historian of the late colonial and early republic period of U.S. history was largely formed by the reception of his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Unlike that book, Wood’s Empire of Liberty focuses on the period between the framing of the Constitution and the end of the War of 1812, often called the Early Republic Era, and largely summarizes the primary source research of other historians. In that respect, Empire of Liberty resembles a textbook. But unlike a textbook, it contains a strong thesis; the first 16 years of the constitutional republic saw a shift of power away from both the aristocratic southern Republicans and their opponents the Federalists, and towards a “middling” class of artisans, shopkeepers, and upwardly mobile capitalists inspired by Jeffersonian republicanism. According to Wood, these "middling" folk came to largely define what it meant to be American in the 19th century and beyond. This perspective has been attacked by other historians who see plenty of social hierarchy even after this supposed revolution of the middling sorts, not just in the south, but also in the north. A version of Wood's thesis that admits the continued presence of social hierarchy while admitting a degree of economic and social flattening softens the blow of this criticism. Empire of Liberty serves as a wonderful summary of a large set of historical research, and presents a thesis that deserves serious consideration, despite its flaws.

Apr 22, 2019


Oct 19, 2017

Read through chapter 12. Pick up again and resume with chapter 13, "Republican Reforms."

May 07, 2011

Great book, very readable and informative.

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