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Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America Revised ed. Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“[A] provocative new study. . . . In a series of brilliant chapters, [Morgan] probes the myths that sustained eighteenth-century American notions of liberty.” (Keith Thomas - New York Review of Books)
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Top Customer Reviews
The author devotes at least half the book to 17th century English political history where the divine right of kings was gradually replaced by popular sovereignty exercised by Parliament. He shows where the Long Parliament of 1640 assumed supreme authority in the name of the people with no mechanisms actually in place for the "people" to check Parliament. The Levellers of that time attempted to bridge the gap of empowerment for the people, but were essentially ignored and suppressed keeping power in the hands of the few.
In later years and in America, the myth of the power of people has been sustained in many ways: extolling the importance of the virtuous yeoman (farmer), requiring participation in local militias where local social hierarchies can be reinforced, elections where pre-selected, elite candidates pander for votes, and holding carnivals where the gentry and peasants pretend to swap social roles. In all of these cases there is the pretense of social equality. It is all an elaborate game where elites interact with the ordinary just enough to remind everyone both of their superiority and sameness and to deflect grass-roots efforts to exercise power.
There is a great deal of discussion concerning the agreement of men in a hypothetical past to emerge from a state of nature to form a community and then to establish a government.Read more ›
Charles embodied the idea of the Divine Right of kings, the antithesis of popular sovereignty. At the same time the Pilgrims were settling New England 3000 miles away and, out from under the eye of King and Parliament, were feeling their way toward a more truly representative government. Another book by Dr Morgan, a short biography of John Winthrop, is a valuable companion to this period.
He moves between this country and its eventual independence and Great Britain as Parliament checked the idea of royal supremacy. I was fascinated by his exposition of why this country developed a written constitution and Great Britain didn't.
This is an important book for these days when so many are trying to determine what our Founding Fathers intended by the Constitution and how they arrived at their positions on government. It is an easy read and had many profound insights. I couldn't recommend it more.
If you know absolutely nothing about the political turmoil of 17th century England, the book may be slightly overwhelming. Online videos on the English Civil War [1642-1649] and Oliver Cromwell are an easy way to get oriented to the period. Rulers from 1603 to 1714 (the age of the Stuarts) are James I [1603-1625], Charles I [1625-1649], Oliver Cromwell (not a king, nor a Stuart), Charles II [1660-1685], James II [1685-1688], William III [1689-1702] with Mary II [1689-1694], and Anne [1702-1714]. From 1714 to 1820 the British kings are George I [1714-1727], George II [1727-1760], and George III [1760-1820].
If you want to know why the constitution is written the way it is, where our forefathers got the crazy idea that men are inherently sovereign and have God-given rights, you'll need to get this book. It explains the slow, awkward, and surprising evolution of philosophy as people began to realize kings were no more endowed with a a mandate from God than men were. If you can't imagine what was really going on in people's minds between the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, this book will fill in all of the missing gaps.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An absolutely essential book for people interested in how the U.S. democratic model evolved from the English experience. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Robert 'greening
A fine historical book worthy of being read by serious students of Democracy. See how we settled on representative government after the bad lessons learned in Europe.Published 24 months ago by Donald H. DiLoreto
Inventing the People is a study of the relation between political ideas and political reality in the Anglo-American world. Read morePublished on June 21, 2006 by Jeffrey Demers