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Ambition, A History: From Vice to Virtue Hardcover – January 29, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300182805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300182804
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“In this masterpiece of intellectual and cultural history, Casey King brilliantly traces the tensions and profound changes in the meaning of ‘ambition’ from Elizabethan England to the Declaration of Independence. Long associated with sin, vice, avarice, and all threats to social stability, ambition acquired new connotations as the Spanish and English colonized the New World and then compared themselves with Indians and African slaves. Written with clarity and elegance, Ambition, A History combines astonishing sources and discoveries with larger economic and political contexts usually missing from the history of ideas.”—David Brion Davis, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (David Brion Davis)

"Truly ground-breaking, vital, profound, deeply nuanced and subtle. . . one of the most important and original manuscripts I’ve ever read."—John Stauffer, author of Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln

 

(John Stauffer)

 “Extremely important, deeply researched, very well-written, and, yes, extraordinarily ambitious. . . King offers a compelling explanation of how ambition became transformed from a sin or vice into a potential (if doubled-edged) virtue that could be harnessed for positive ends.”—Steven Mintz, author of Moralists and Modernizers: America's Pre-Civil War Reformers
(Steven Mintz)

 "Being ambitious is for better or worse a peculiarly American characteristic. This important book helps us understand where we have been and where we are going at a crucial moment for our culture and our role in the world."—Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot University Professor, Harvard University, and former Secretary of the Treasury of the United States
(Lawrence H. Summers)

About the Author

William Casey King is executive director of the Yale Center for Analytical Sciences, Yale University. He was previously a Salomon Brothers bond trader and executive director of the W. E. B. DuBois Institute of African and African American Research, Harvard University. He lives in Hamden, CT.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Norman M. Canter on January 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author describes religious and philosophical attitudes toward ambition as evolving concepts. Although fully researched and academically sound..the book reads like a good novel and holds the reader's interest throughout. The writing is lucid and presentation is logical and progressive. He makes use of ancient definitions and considerable use of the Geneva Bible and marginalia. Poets of a critical period of development in England are included. The story of Dick Whittington is dissected as an historical and multifaceted story. The final acceptance of ambition as a constructive force takes place in colonial America..with interesting consequences in regard to our relationship with England and the formation of a new government.

The great geniuses transcended all limitations of geography, and society; Leonardo, Cellini, Bernini, Michelangelo,J.S. Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach,Soler,Benjamin Franklin, Publilius Syrus, Cervantes, Galileo,etc. But those who were not immortal giants were products of their time and better demonstrate the evolution that is traced by Dr. King in this work. Even in our era, Einstein, and a few others are so unique that they cannot be classified and defy any concepts or discussions of ambition. The same can be said for Ramon y Cajal, Pasteur, Semmelweis, and Koch of an earlier era in the sciences; in music, Beethoven, Rossini, Puccini, and Haydn easily come to mind.
The author's approach is imaginative and unique...scholarly but presented so that his contribution is available for any reader from casual to academic.
This is a really wonderful book.
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1 of 9 people found the following review helpful By CWard on June 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This didn't need to be a book. The point is Ambition was once considered a vice for religious reasons. Remember, a for most of human history, people were born into a town and stayed their there entire lives. There were not possibilities like today.

So, ambition was a vice. Now, with all the ways a person can improve his or her life, it is a virtue. This main point was presented in the 8 pages of the introduction and then beaten to death for the remainder of the book.

If this is a research project for you, get the book. Otherwise, Amazon's "Look Inside" will give you enough to understand the history of Ambition.

I regularly read non-fiction. Currently, I'm reading The End of Power by Moises Naim, and it is fascinating. Very worthwhile reading.
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