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Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford History of the United States) Reprint Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199832460
ISBN-10: 0199832463
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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)

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A new addition to the Oxford History of the United States, Wood's superb book brings together much of what historians now know about the first quarter-century of the nation's history under the Constitution. Acknowledged as the leading historian of the period, Wood brings authority and easy style to a tough task—wrestling into order a period of unusual anxiety, confusion, crisis and unbridled growth in the nation's affairs. The emergence of democracy and individualism is his overarching theme. No surprise there, for he's the author of a celebrated work (The Radicalism of the American Revolution) on just that topic. In this new work, he concentrates more on events, institutions, politics and diplomacy than in his earlier books yet proves himself a master of these topics, too. He offers no newfangled approaches, no strongly stated positions, no contests with other historians. Instead, we get the distillation of a lifetime's study and reflection about the era between Washington's presidency and the end of the War of 1812. A triumph of the historian's art, Wood's book will not soon be supplanted. No one interested in the era should miss it. 40 b&w illus., maps. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford History of the United States
  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199832463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199832460
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 2.3 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. His books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the Bancroft Prize-winning The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, and The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. He writes frequently for The New York Review of Books and The New Republic.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Other reviewers have provided thoughtful and comprehensive reviews of the content of this excellent book. I'll focus my own on the book as a Good Read. It's perhaps the best on U.S. history that I've read since Daniel Howe's What God Hath Wrought, the next one in the Oxford series, which has the same virtues. It is beautifully written and flows well; the style is precise and compact rather than elegant, but a model of measured exposition. The examples mesh beautifully into its superbly modulated flow of argument. Just about every paragraph has a point to make that is convincing and clear. This slows it down in some ways, all good ones. First, it's long and it will take months rather than days to go through and it needs active engagement and reflection by the reader. It's not skimming material. Second, it builds its picture in a way that precludes fast skipping.

It doesn't have an axe to grind. It's a fairly centrist analysis that has no debunking and takes the leading political figures as essentially honorable individuals - almost all male, of course - working their way honestly to make the transition from the society and social hierarchies they were brought up in to the creation of a unique republic that fused the many interests and differences of American diversity. He places less emphasis than Howe on the economic and social dynamics underlying the cancerous issue of slavery, though his chapter, Between Slavery and Freedom, is a fine summary of how and why the Revolutionary leaders were so misguided in their conviction that it would just fade away. The last paragraph of the over 700 pages concludes that "The Civil War was the climax of a tragedy that was preordained from the time of the Revolution.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thesis and Summary:

In this, the 8th volume of Oxford's History of the United States, Gordon Wood weighs in on the Washington through Madison administrations, and gives a broad perspective analysis of the burgeoning American and American culture. Indeed, Wood's thesis can be summed up to say that by 1815 America was a thoroughly transformed nation from the one that initiated the revolution in 1776: a nation that had gone from gentleman leaders to a far more inclusive- albeit brutish- democracy.

Woods begins his journey to American Democracy by explaining the "middling" class of Americans that emerged with the ratification of the Constitution. This new class of Americans did not personify the classical notion of virtue that Federalists found necessary to lead. They were a people possessed of a native congeniality for the sake of prosperity. They were fond of money making (and good at it), they weren't Harvard or Princeton educated, and they voted. It is this middling class that is the protagonist (for lack of better word) of Wood's work. He sees their growth as the Federalists' death and he sees Jefferson as their chief advocate and the man responsible for their ascendance to power. Herein one finds Wood's bias. He simply adores Thomas Jefferson and makes bare faced obeisance to him at every turn of the page it seems while looking to traduce Federalists as much as possible. As I read this substantial work, I couldn't help but to constantly contrast it with Elkins and McKitrick's The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800. Both works are monumental in scope, but one is sympathetic to Federalists and the other to Republicans.
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Format: Hardcover
What an odd, brilliant, and maddening book. Wood is a very distinguished historian: his The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia) is required reading for any student of the revolution, and after several years' hiatus, he has come back with several outstanding works, most notably The Radicalism of the American Revolution and The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. But like many great scholars, he has become infatuated with his own thesis, namely, that the revolution represented the beginning of a radical cultural transformation of America based on liberty and equality.. And because of this, in Empire of Liberty he makes several judgments of both coverage and assessment that are blinkered and often grotesquely unfair. The bottom line, as other reviewers have suggested, is that in order to adequately appreciate the politics of the early national period, you really should read Wood's work together with Elkins and Mckitrick's The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 or Joseph Ellis' ...Read more ›
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