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Jefferson's Great Gamble: The Remarkable Story of Jefferson, Napoleon and the Men behind the Louisiana Purchase Paperback – March 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402202407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402202407
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this bicentennial year of the Louisiana Purchase, it's hard to imagine a more lively, shrewd and vivid narrative of the tangled events leading to it than this book. Compared to Roger Kennedy's zigzagging, unfocused Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause, Cerami's book is notable for its readability and clarity. When he occasionally strays from his subject, he stumbles badly and shouldn't be taken as an authority on history in other times; nor is his tale based on the most recent, pertinent scholarship and available documents. But about the geopolitical and diplomatic circumstances of the purchase, Cerami (A Marshall Plan for the 1990s, etc.) is a master. His greatest achievement is to bring all of the characters involved-not only the well-known figures like Napoleon, Jefferson and James Monroe, but also the less famous but equally significant ones such as Robert Livingston, Louis-Andr‚ Pichon and Francois de Barb‚-Marbois-brilliantly to life. Cerami's book will not satisfy those looking to understand the larger significance of the sudden doubling of American territory-its implications for slavery, politics and the emergence of the U.S. as a continental and world power. But anyone wanting to read the story of a momentous turning point in American history, a story of diplomatic maneuvering and international politics, will be hard-pressed to find a better version than this. Illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Cerami does not shy away from offering vigorous opinions on the actions of the principals in the Louisiana Purchase. This propensity might jaundice professional historians, but Cerami's readers are not pros but peers: those who enjoy their history packaged as a fast-paced and muscular story. Cerami produces this effect by attending to the diplomatic instructions that Jefferson and Madison sent to Robert Livingston and James Monroe in Paris and likewise those of Napoleon to his ministers and legate in Washington, the otherwise obscure Louis-Andre Pichon. Cerami fairly revels in commenting about dispatches and audiences, giving Monroe laurels for closing the deal in 1803 but scoring Livingston for falsifying the record in an attempt to gain glory. History buffs will find satisfying new nuggets in Cerami's synthesis. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

If you know anyone who likes to read about early American history this book should satisfy them.
Mike
He backtracked and zig-zagged to provide context to his principal narrative to such an extent that there was no real "story" to follow.
Scott Porch
I thought the book was well written and the author has an entertaining style that is easy to read.
LAS

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David N. Thielen on December 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting subject and the book does cover quite a bit of what happened. But the final decision to sell was made by Napolean - and he is barely mentioned. It's like he is off in a side room and a couple of times one of the French negotiators would go talk to him off camera.

It also does not discuss much the context in America that lead to Jefferson being pushed to try to gain New Orleans and that also made him think it would be ok to buy all of Louisiana.

So, lots of interesting stuff, and it is well written. But a lot of the context is missing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Scott Porch on June 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
After recently finishing "Founding Brothers" by Joseph J. Ellis, which essentially covered various major events in post-revolutionary American history through the 1800 election of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency, I was interested in continuing my reading through the next several years of Jefferson's administration. The Louisiana Purchase was an obvious next step - and arguably the next event of any significance after Jefferson's election - in a reading of early American history.
I was disappointed by the narrative, though I think the subject matter was generally interesting. In the hands of a more accomplished author/historian, the story could have had the pop, the suspense and the intrigue of a historical novel. It didn't. Cerami's narrative was plodding and often dull. He backtracked and zig-zagged to provide context to his principal narrative to such an extent that there was no real "story" to follow.
There's so much history available to read and so much good scholarship from original source material that narrative skills separates the mediocre works from the great ones. I would put this book in the former category.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon Lever on December 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Cerami's book is an easy read. I read about three quarters of it in an hour and half. Unfortunately, when I bought it I was expecting the story of the Louisana purchase. True enough it was there, but you have to sort through the biographies of each of the characters. I am still not entirely certain how Talleyrand got to the position of foreign minister really impacted the purchase of the Louisana territory, but it was there.
The best part of the book was the last chapter. The story of Jackson's victory at New Orleans was interesting and probably the best piece of history included in the book, but unfortunately, it really came far too late in the read for me. Had there been more of this kind of history included, in terms of the writing style, the book probably would have kept me going with a greater degree of interest.
Finally, this is a small point for some, but the last part of the book includes a series of notes associated with each page. However, there isn't any reference on those pages as to what the note is dealing dealing with. You have no way of correlating the text with the notes included, which makes the explanatory notes all the more difficult to understand.
There was some positive to the book however, in addition to the last chapter. Cerami did include reference to the Treaty of San Ildefonso and to the circumstances that led to it being signed, which then leads us to have an understanding of how Napoleon got the territory. I include this as a positive because finding much information in the popular literature is difficult. It's too bad that Cerami didn't choose to focus on the similar aspects of the purchase to improve the overall historical nature of the book.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Patterson on May 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed reading the book, but since the author purported to be telling the entire story, I would liked to have seen other characters who played a role in the Louisiana Purchase included: General Wilkonson, head of the American Army, a "confidant" of Jefferson while a spy on Spain's Payroll, Aaron Burr, the big intriguer who was scheming to make New Orleans part of a Southern Empire, and others including George Rogers Clarke who was intriguing with Spain and France to organize an Army, invade New Orleans and place it under French control

The other problem I had with the book is that the author led the reader to believe that, in the War of 1812, Jackson's defeat of the British was the deciding factor in America keeping New Orleans and thus the entire Louisiana Territory. Not true. Amerca and Britain had concluded a peace treaty before the battle of New Orleans was waged and won.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Edna Barrington on June 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The value of Cerami's rendition of the Louisiana Purchase is l) its down-to-earth clarity, and 2) the way the historical participants come alive on every page! For those who know little or nothing about the importance of the Louisiana Purchase, this book will whet your appetite for more details of this exciting, invalualuable event that brought us the territory west of the Appalachians which, without it, we may never have become the world leader for freedom and democracy.
For those who have an understanding of why Jefferson and others forsaw the importance of U.S. expansion on this continent, the author brings the major players from the U.S., Spain and France to life for you through their negotiations, their letters, private thoughts, and individual personalities. This is history told at its best with uncomplicated clarity and at the same time gives enough pros and cons from all the countries involved to allow the reader to understand why negotiations were so difficult; and how we could have lost the whole deal had other personalities been in charge.
I now have a new sense of such simple facts as why the West became "the wild west", why the northeastern states are so small and the western states so much larger, why being one country that stretched from "sea to shining sea" gave us time to grow and mature in relative peace to European countries, and land with all the natural resources needed for independence.
Jefferson's Great Gamble whetted my appetite for more on the subject, so I bought A Wilderness So Immense, by Jon Kukla. I'm very glad I read the former first because it gave me a background to help understand Kukla's book, which I might have put down before finishing the first chapter because it's slow getting started.
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