Because the U.S. began as an idea, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood believes that the American Revolution is the most important event in our history, bar none. American identity is not based on any universally shared heritage, so we have had to return to our nation's founding to understand who we are. Wood explores the ideological origins of the revolution's attempts to forge an American democracy, and traces the origins of American exceptionalism. What may simply seem like audacity now was considered radical in the 18th century. Today there exists what Wood calls a terrifying gap between the founders and us, such that it requires almost an act of imagination to fully recapture their era. Because we now take our democracy for granted, it is nearly impossible for us to appreciate how deeply the founders feared their grand experiment in liberty could evolve into monarchy or dissolve into mob rule. Gracefully written and filled with insight, The Idea of America helps us to recapture the fears and hopes of the revolutionary generation and its attempts to translate those ideals into a working democracy.
Rhetoric and reality in the American Revolution
The legacy of Rome in the American Revolution
Conspiracy and the paranoid style
Interests and disinterestedness in the making of the Constitution
The origins of American Constitutionalism
The making of American democracy
The radicalism of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine considered
Monarchism and republicanism in early America
Illusions of power in the awkward era of federalism
The American enlightenment
A history of rights in early America
Conclusion : the American revolutionary tradition, or why America wants to spread democracy around the world.
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