- Paperback: 330 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (September 5, 1986)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0029024803
- ISBN-13: 978-0029024805
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 38 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,342,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of The United States Reissue Edition
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From Library Journal
In this 1913 volume, Beard, the founder of the New School for Social Research, contends that the Founding Fathers included a clear strategy for Colonial economics in the writing of the Constitution. A staple for history and economics collections. (Classic Returns, LJ 11/1/98)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Here again is the original constitutional skeptic to remind Americans that our republic's authors had not only intellects but interests. Charles Beard set out to jolt his contemporaries out of their pious admiration of the constitution's framers. His economic interpretation remains a lively, surprisingly humorous and sharp-witted analysis of the nation's beginnings. Reading it today, the book aims a keen and pointed thrust at the originalism of our own age." (Professor Eric Rauchway, University of California Davis Department of History)
"One hundred years after it first appeared, Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution still commands our attention as a classic of historical scholarship -- not because every view Beard put forward has stood the test of time but because the questions he raised about the intersections of economic and political power are just as relevant today as when he wrote." (Professor Eric Foner, Columbia University Department of History)
"This is the book that started us all on the journey to understanding the complex motives and conflicting interests that shaped our constitution. 100 years after its publication, it still has the power to excite and exasperate, to stir fierce debate and to inspire new interpretations." (Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Emerita, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY)
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The turn-of-the-20th century establishment--used to uncontroversial if not praising assessments and biographies--reacted with revulsion, and attacked Beard's work on almost all levels. And yet, 100-years later, it can and is seen by many (including some formerly hostile) as an "important" work and serious history still. In that vein, be sure to read Professor Forrest McDonald's, "A New Introduction", included with the book (and can be read, pre-purchase, at the "Look Inside" link on the Amazon web page.). It thoughtfully sets up your read for this book - explaining the 20th century hostility as well as offering insight into Beard's motivation and alluding to the "error" in Beard's work that modern techniques have been able to define.
Though not an economic interpretation, also see Professor Akhil Reed Amar's book, America's Constitution: A Biography for an analysis of the Framers structural intent in the making of the Constitution. This book, "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution..." is an easy read and a necessary read for any complete understanding of the formation of the Constitution - even if you reject the book's full conclusions.
Generally well done! Very few typos and the essential functionality of the e-book format is implemented: swipe-chapter change, well linked table of contents, index and citations. Page numbers (almost always the bugaboo) are included, there are no photos or maps, and Text-to-Speech is NOT implemented. e-Book publication quality for The Free Press publisher ★★★★★ (despite their Text-to-Speech stinginess!)
Beard tells us that the Framers and ratifiers of the Constitution talked big when it came to America's founding values, but were really in it for themselves economically, framing our system of government in a way that would both enlarge and ensure their own economic hegemony over their fellow citizens. Yet, comprehensive review of historical documents, both by Forrest McDonald in We the People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution (which attacks the economic prong of Beard's hypothesis), and by Bernard Bailyn's The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (which convincingly demonstrates the sincerity of the beliefs in liberty our forefathers held), has revealed Beard's economic interpretation to be not anywhere remotely near historical truth.
This is not to say that Beard's book is entirely without worth, however. When it was published, and for decades afterward, it was academically accepted and impacted many Americans' understanding of their own history. It also played a notable role in energizing and sustaining the Progressive movement into the New Deal era, with Beard's thesis lasting until better scholarship emerged in the 1950s. In that sense, then, it is valuable to any comprehensive understanding of early twentieth-century and depression-era politics.