By Gordon S. Wood

The preeminent historian of the yankee Revolution explains why it is still the main major occasion in our historical past.

greater than nearly the other country on the planet, the U.S. started as an concept. therefore, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. wooden believes that the yankee Revolution is an important occasion in our heritage, bar none. considering American identification is so fluid and never in accordance with any universally shared history, we now have needed to regularly go back to our nation's founding to appreciate who we're. In The concept of America, wooden displays at the delivery of yank nationhood and explains why the revolution is still so essential.

In a sequence of stylish and illuminating essays, wooden explores the ideological origins of the revolution-from historical Rome to the eu Enlightenment-and the founders' makes an attempt to forge an American democracy. As wooden unearths, whereas the founders was hoping to create a virtuous republic of yeoman farmers and bored to death leaders, they as an alternative gave beginning to a sprawling, licentious, and materialistic well known democracy.

wooden additionally strains the origins of yank exceptionalism to this era, revealing how the innovative iteration, regardless of dwelling in a far off, carefully populated state, believed itself to be the main enlightened humans on the earth. The revolution gave american citizens their messianic feel of purpose-and probably our persisted propensity to advertise democracy round the world-because the founders believed their colonial uprising had common value for oppressed peoples in all places. but what could seem like audacity looking back mirrored the truth that within the eighteenth century republicanism used to be a really radical ideology-as radical as Marxism will be within the nineteenth-and one who certainly encouraged revolutionaries the realm over.

at the present time there exists what wooden calls a terrifying hole among us and the founders, such that it calls for virtually an act of mind's eye to completely recapture their period. simply because we now take our democracy without any consideration, it really is approximately most unlikely for us to understand how deeply the founders feared their grand test in liberty may well evolve into monarchy or dissolve into licentiousness. Gracefully written and packed with perception, The concept of America is helping us to recapture the fears and hopes of the progressive iteration and its makes an attempt to translate these beliefs right into a operating democracy.

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Extra info for The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States

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39 No part of American thinking, Bailyn suggests—not the widespread belief in a ministerial conspiracy, not the hostile and vicious indictments of individuals, not the fear of corruption and the hope for regeneration, not any of the violent seemingly absurd distortions and falsifications of what we now believe to be true, in short, none of the frenzied rhetoric—can be safely ignored by the historian seeking to understand the causes of the Revolution. Bailyn’s study, however, represents something other than a more com­ plete and uncorrupted version of the common idealist interpretations of the Revolution.

By concentrating on the immediate events of the decade leading up to independence, the historians of the 1950s have necessarily fled from the economic and social determinism of the Progressive his­ torians. And by emphasizing the consistency and devotion with which Americans held their constitutional beliefs, they have once again focused on what seems to be the extraordinary intellectuality of the American Revolution and hence its uniqueness among Western revolutions. This interpretation, which, as Jack P.

Our intellectual life is made up of struggles over getting people to accept different meanings of our experiences—in effect, trying to change Introduction | 17 the culture. The stakes are always high because actions that we cannot make meaningful—cannot conceive of, rationalize, legitimate, or per­ suade other people to accept—we in some sense cannot undertake. What is permissible culturally affects what is permissible socially or politically, so that although ideas may not be the motives for behavior (underly­ ing interests and passions are the real motives), ideas do affect and limit behavior.

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