Newport Book Talk by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian Filmed by C-Span

Knitting together the complex skeins of post Colonial America, Pulitzer prize-winning historian Gordon Wood enthralled history buffs with tales from his newest history, “Empire of Liberty A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815” at the Redwood Library and Athanaeum in Newport recently. The volume is the latest addition to the prestigious Oxford History of the United States. C-Span was on site to film the lecture for its Book TV series.


The Oxford History of the United States is unequivocally the most respected multi-volume history of the nation. The series includes contributions fromthree Pulitzer Prizes winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. In this newest volume in the series, one of America’s most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offer a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812.


As Wood revealedl to his audience, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life—in politics, society, economy, and culture. The men who founded the new government had high hopes for the future, but few of their hopes and dreams worked out quite as they expected. They hated political parties, but parties nonetheless emerged. Some wanted the United States to become a great fiscal-military state like those of Britain and France; others wanted the country to remain a rural agricultural state very different from European states. Instead, by 1815 the United States became something neither group anticipated. Many leaders expected American culture to flourish and surpass that of Europe; instead it became popularized and vulgarized. The leaders also hoped to see the end of slavery; instead, despite the release of many slaves and the end of slavery in the North, slavery was stronger in 1815 than it had been in 1789. Many wanted to avoid entanglements with Europe, but instead the country became involved in Europe’s wars and ended up waging another war with the former mother country. Still, with a new generation emerging by 1815, most Americans were confident and optimistic about the future of their young country.


Integrating all aspects of life, from politics and law to the economy and culture, Empire of Liberty offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.


Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor 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.


After the talk, he signed many pre-publication books, and spoke with inerested audience members.











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