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The American Revolution: A History (Modern Library Chronicles) [Paperback]

Gordon S. Wood
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 19, 2003 0812970411 978-0812970418
“An elegant synthesis done by the leading scholar in the field, which nicely integrates the work on the American Revolution over the last three decades but never loses contact with the older, classic questions that we have been arguing about for over two hundred years.”
-Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers

A magnificent account of the revolution in arms and consciousness that gave birth to the American republic.

When Abraham Lincoln sought to define the significance of the United States, he naturally looked back to the American Revolution. He knew that the Revolution not only had legally created the United States, but also had produced all of the great hopes and values of the American people. Our noblest ideals and aspirations-our commitments to freedom, constitutionalism, the well-being of ordinary people, and equality-came out of the Revolutionary era. Lincoln saw as well that the Revolution had convinced Americans that they were a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty. The Revolution, in short, gave birth to whatever sense of nationhood and national purpose Americans have had.

No doubt the story is a dramatic one: Thirteen insignificant colonies three thousand miles from the centers of Western civilization fought off British rule to become, in fewer than three decades, a huge, sprawling, rambunctious republic of nearly four million citizens. But the history of the American Revolution, like the history of the nation as a whole, ought not to be viewed simply as a story of right and wrong from which moral lessons are to be drawn. It is a complicated and at times ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not blindly celebrated or condemned. How did this great revolution come about? What was its character? What were its consequences? These are the questions this short history seeks to answer. That it succeeds in such a profound and enthralling way is a tribute to Gordon Wood’s mastery of his subject, and of the historian’s craft.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Gordon S. Wood's The American Revolution, part of the Modern Library Chronicles series, is an erudite, concise summary of the events and circumstances surrounding the seminal conflict, both physical and philosophical, in American history. The Modern Library Chronicles are accessible-but-serious works of scholarship, meant to serve as introductions (or refresher courses) on large subjects for interested readers. The American Revolution is an excellent case in point. Wood deftly describes seeds of the Revolution, most notably disgruntlement on the colonists' part brought about by increasingly maladroit and fiscally punishing British policies. He then follows the course of actual warfare and its aftermath, most interestingly the fraught, bitter battle to draw a governing blueprint for the new country.

Wood breaks little new interpretive ground himself, here, but as a synthesizer (and amiable, skillful narrator/guide) he stands on high ground. --H. O'Billovitch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A famed historian sums up his life's work; his first book since winning the Pulitzer Prize.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Chronicles (Book 9)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (August 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812970411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970418
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,988 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.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#57 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compact, Straight Forward Look at Revolution February 19, 2002
Gordon S. Wood faithfully fulfills the objectives of the fine Modern Libary Chronicles series, in The American Revolution (A History). The author, in a short space, effectively gives a history of the American Revolution from its ecomonic, demographic and ideological origins through the war itself and into the second revolution, that of the creation of the constitution. The story is told clearly and made interesting, sticking conservatively to the basic outline without adding any of the more radical views of recent years. This volume is definately not for those overly familiar with the Revolution but would be a good beginning or a refresher for those interested in the outlines of this fascinating event. All the major personalities makes brief appearances but the focus is on the revolution itself, as it should be.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A short book that will expand your mind. February 24, 2005
By Epops
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It is written by a professor at an Ivy League university (Brown), and yet from reading his book I am unable to determine his personal political leanings. Either he thinks the same way I do, or he is that "rara avis", a historian whose only ax to grind is that of the search for objective truth about the past.

He is a superb writer. There is not a dull sentence in the book, and the narrative flows like a good novel. It is a brief book, intended to be an introduction for general readers as part of a Modern Library series, and yet as a knowledgeable but non-specialist reader of the period, I learned something new on almost every page. Professor Wood has made himself one with the Revolutionary era, and has at the same time cultivated the ability to describe it clearly to us moderns. I suspect he was an excellent classroom instructor for freshmen students.

These quotations illustrate his insightful thought and graceful style:

"... the Revolution was not only about home rule; it was also about who should rule at home."

"The Revolution, like the whole of American history, is not a simple morality play; it is a complicated and often ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not celebrated or condemned."

Note the skillful use of the semicolon, the mark of a good prose stylist, and the concise expression of some very complex concepts in two brief sentences.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly comprehensive given its brief size December 11, 2003
Gordon S. Wood is one of the deans of scholarship on the American Revolution, and this volume in the Modern Library Chronicles series (each volume dedicated to providing a brief but sound introduction to a specific subject) is the distillation of a lifetime of study of the subject. Although short, this is not a book lacking in content. Some of the reviewers seem to misunderstand the subject: the American Revolution was not primarily a military adventure but an intellectual one. Therefore, the book rightfully dedicates most of its pages to the ideas that drove the revolt against Britain and the formation of a completely original form of government based upon equality and the sovereignty of the people.
The genius of the book is not merely that Wood finds space to mention every significant aspect of the American Revolution, but that he is able in a very brief space explain the why and the wherefore. For instance, in explaining why the people making up the new nation did not respect the rights of Native Americans and consider them equals, Wood explains that the widespread view was that independent individual owned and cultivated land, and since the Indians were hunters, they could not could that they were potential citizens like themselves. Therefore, they could only treat them as foreigner nations. Wood does not condone their conclusions, but he does a great job of explaining their thinking. Likewise, when he addresses the question of slavery, he points out that while the founders did not carry through with the logical implications of the notion that all men are created equal, the foundations where nonetheless laid for its eventually expungement. As he writes, "The Revolution had a powerful effect in eventually bring an end to slavery in America.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars America's Revolution of the Mind: 1763-1787 May 15, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What was the American Revolution? While most people would probably identify the American Revolution with the American War of Independence, Gordon S. Wood sees it as something more: a complete change in the ideological and political structure of British America, from the Royal colonies of 1763 to the Unites States of 1787. Within a single generation, America twice revised its views about the government and sovereignty.
Wood does not disregard the material causes for independence, the interest groups and the petty local politics that fed fuel to the conflict between the colonies and the mother country, but his focus is on the ideological and philosophical issues - the British, who saw Parliament as the source of authority to all of the British Empire, whether the constituents voted for the MPs or not, and the Americans, who held to the principle of "no taxation without representation", and the ideology that contrasted liberty and self rule with the tyrannical power of the divine rights of kings.
With the deepening, crisis, the Colonists, although willing in principle to acknowledge that Parliament had the right to regulate external commerce and navigation laws "from the necessities of the case, and a regard to the mutual interests of both countries" (p.44), could no longer reconcile that view with the British all-or-nothing perspective, in which sovereignty lay within Parliament and Parliament alone. The widespread violence and King George III's declaration that the colonies were in open revolt helped push the Americans into declaring their independence.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What Were the Causes and Effects of the War?
In the "Preface," to this brief survey, historian Gordon S. Wood suggests that the American Revolution should simply be "explained and understood. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Frank Bellizzi
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Described perfectly! Exactly what I expected.
Published 7 days ago by Shawn McAllister
4.0 out of 5 stars I buy this book often
Whenever I have a friend that is unclear about the American Revolution, I buy this book for them. Gordon Wood is the authority on American Revolutionary history
Published 1 month ago by Stosh A. Kozlowski
4.0 out of 5 stars A great book for someone that knows little about the American...
a general synopsis of the revolutionary war, touches on the main cause and effect, should be followed up on more extensive reading material, great for anyone who never gave much... Read more
Published 3 months ago by James Gencarelli
4.0 out of 5 stars Words
Very academically written. Have yet to finish the book but it's very informative. I'll finish it some day when I finish it.
Published 5 months ago by Billy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, quick and interesting.
A nice, concise account. Writing style is clear, engaging and insightful. Not a dull history book to sit on a shelf
Published 7 months ago by Katherine Cail
5.0 out of 5 stars This textbook was a good resource for my college course!
This textbook arrived in a good amount of time! Was in great condition. It was a great resource for my college course.
Published 9 months ago by Nikki Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars required reading
Even though this was required reading for AP US History, my daughter liked the book. I recommend it in paperback since it was cheaper than buying it for the kindle.
Published 9 months ago by Alayna C. Rice
5.0 out of 5 stars Wood's American Revolution
Wood's preeminence as a historian and writer make this book a joy to read; it's clear, unpretentious but well documented.
Published 9 months ago by Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
4.0 out of 5 stars Here's a good one...
Knock knock.

Who's there?


Wood who?

Wood drastically underestimates the impact of social distinctions predicated upon wealth,... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jhammon67
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