Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr” as Want to Read:
Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  922 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
This definitive biography of the revolutionary era villain overturns every myth and image we have of him

The narrative of America's founding is filled with godlike geniusesFranklin, Washington, Adams, Jeffersonversus the villainous Aaron Burr. Generations have been told Burr was a betrayerof Hamilton, of his country, of those who had nobler ideas. All untrue. He did not t
Hardcover, 540 pages
Published May 10th 2007 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fallen Founder, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Fallen Founder

John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best Non-fiction American History Books
189th out of 1,257 books — 1,740 voters
Burr by Gore VidalAmerican Emperor by David O. StewartFounding Brothers by Joseph J. EllisFallen Founder by Nancy IsenbergDuel by Thomas J. Fleming
Aaron Burr
4th out of 9 books — 2 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,425)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
A.J. Howard
Nancy Isenberg has a valid argument that Aaron Burr has been grossly misjudged by history. However, her restoration is tainted by her devotion to the man. Isenberg's Burr is a brilliant, progressive, selfless hero who deserves a spot on the pantheon of America's founders. His enemies were small, vainglorious, hypocrites who only served their own interest. She attacks other writers, such as Ron Chernow, for upholding the standard story. Isenberg may have a point, but I think the truth lies somewh ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spent a lot of this wanting to give Nancy Isenberg a hug. It's okay, Nancy, I would say to her. It's okay. I know all those people who wrote all those other books said mean things about Aaron Burr. I know. It's okay. But look! You have this opportunity here to tell me all about him in clear and precise language! And sometimes you totally are accomplishing that, and sometimes you are being awfully reactionary and shadowboxery. I did not write the lousy things about Aaron Burr, after all. I actual ...more
Tom Meyer
Jul 23, 2016 Tom Meyer rated it it was ok
This was a very irritating biography.

To her credit, Isenberg is less credulous than other Burr biographers and generally brings a healthy level of skepticism to some of the more fantastic claims made about him. Her discussions of Burr's marriage and parenting of the younger Theodosia are also good.

Isenberg is significantly less successful in her treatment of Burr's politics. Though her description of Burr's political niche is excellent, her attempt to portray him as politically principled comple
Jun 09, 2008 Stuart rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Yes, Aaron Burr was scheming a lot to invade Mexico and Florida, but the author makes the point that there was a lot of that going around. During Polk's presidency we did end up annexing Mexico. And Andrew Jackson went into Florida, creating the crisis that allowed us to buy it. Burr may have been just as interested in claiming Mexico or Florida for the US as setting up a new Republic. But there was no truth to the charge that he also was going to invade Washington and take over the US governmen ...more
Carl Rollyson
Jun 21, 2016 Carl Rollyson rated it it was amazing
"It is time to start over," contends Nancy Isenberg in her iconoclastic "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr." Burr is, of course, infamous for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. But historians have also branded Burr a Machiavellian villain who schemed to deny Thomas Jefferson the presidency and most likely committed treason, even though he escaped conviction.

Ms. Isenberg faults historians and biographers for not examining Burr's papers — although many were lost, thus obscuring the man, sh
David Eppenstein
In the course of my readings of the early history of our country the name of Aaron Burr has popped up several times. I admit that prior to reading this book I didn't know much about this man other than what most others knew. I knew that he almost stole the presidency from Jefferson in 1800 and that he killed Hamilton in a duel. I believed, from my reading, that he had been something of a vain political opportunist and a scoundrel. I recently ran across his name again and decided that I had to kn ...more
Mark Desrosiers
Jan 04, 2015 Mark Desrosiers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
One of the most interesting -- and overlooked -- aspects of Aaron Burr's life is his deep and abiding friendship with philosopher Jeremy Bentham -- an intellectual kinship that led to Burr lodging in Bentham's London residence, the "Bird-Cage", after Burr's public disgrace and legal exoneration in 1807. Hell, Burr even crawled through Bentham's attic to retrieve and read some manuscripts, such was his interest in the utilitarian's work and thought.

Burr's lodging with Bentham is a perfect window
David Longo
Jun 13, 2016 David Longo rated it it was ok
Only about one year ago I logged onto Goodreads. So occasionally I go back and write a review of something I read many years earlier. This is the case with "Fallen Founder" by Nancy Isenberg.

Overall, I did not enjoy this book. I found Isenberg's take on Aaron Burr having been misjudged by historians rather incredulous. I have read countless books on the Revolutionary Era, the Founding Fathers, the duel between Burr and Hamilton, three separate biographies on the man who died as a result of said
Andrew Murch
Mar 23, 2016 Andrew Murch rated it did not like it
Aaron Burr is often seen as the villain of the founding generation. Most people don't realize that the man who killed fellow founder Alexander Hamilton in a duel was also the grandson of famed preacher Jonathan Edwards, as well as the 3rd Vice President of the United States. If things fell a little differently in the election of 1800, Burr's name would have forever been cemented among the legacy of the founding generation of Presidents.

Isenberg seeks to rescue Burr's reputation, laying out a ca
Oct 05, 2008 Rick rated it it was ok
This book was not worth the read. Although it wasn't long Isenberg provided a good level of detail, I continually felt like the author was writing about her secret love. Burr has been a 'his and a byword' in political circles and indeed he did great things although he is defined by his dual with Hamilton and as a result he doesn't get a fair shake from most historians. I felt like Isenberg was making up for this by leaning too far in support of Burr. She portrayed him as a victim not of his own ...more
Doug DePew
Apr 30, 2011 Doug DePew rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in early US history
Recommended to Doug by: History Book Club
"Fallen Founder" by Nancy Isenberg is probably the first time anyone since the 19th century has seen the real Aaron Burr. He has become a parody and most historians ignore his important, nearly unique voice in the founding of our country. He was good looking, intelligent, and passionate. The book is very meticulously researched with massive notes in the back. It is well written and covers Burr's professional, political, and private life as completely as will probably ever be done. It provides a ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
It has not been too often in the history of our country that the Vice President of the United States kills the former Secretary of the Treasury and gets away with it. But then, rancorous as our current political scene might be, it barely holds a candle to the extreme partyism of the era when political parties - in this case the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans - first appeared. The truth is that the toxic enmity between the Vice President (Aaron Burr) and the former Secretary of the T ...more
Oct 12, 2009 Evan rated it it was amazing
If Nancy Isenberg's research, premise and conclusions are all correct, then Arron Burr is the most maligned man in American History. He's also the grandson of Jonathan Edwards...what a crazy small country we used to have!

Political history is written by political victors, and Aaron Burr had many successful political enemies, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. No wonder people thinks so badly of Burr today.
Nov 13, 2015 Eschargot rated it really liked it
A second reading of this book - first read it back in 2007. Shows the depths people in power will stoop to in order to destroy a potential rival. Well written book by Nancy Isenberg as she tries to revive the fortunes of a much maligned but popular and charismatic founder. Hounded by Hamilton and relentlessly persecuted by President Jefferson - he was probably one of the first victims of nasty press rumor and outrageous slander in early US history. Though he outlived all his rivals - he left ver ...more
Oct 31, 2014 Mr rated it liked it
What a butthead, that Aaron Burr! Fellow founders Adams, Washington, Madison, Jefferson and Hamilton (whom he fatally shot in the hip in that infamous 1804 duel) could not abide him and never trusted him a bit. Nevertheless, he grumpily served as Jefferson’s first vice-president following the messy & corrupt 1800 national election. After a crazy separatist adventure out West, Burr stands trial for treason in 1807 and is acquitted--except in the court of public opinion, where his sexual mores ...more
Ann Marie
Jan 30, 2012 Ann Marie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book says that the things we have all thought about Aaron Burr are wrong and shows why and how he got the reputation he did. I like the Aaron Burr she talks about. It is a bit difficult to read because she uses a lot of quotes from letters and they did write in a very different way than we do.

To describe my feelings about Aaron Burr I am going to use a quote from the author. "Burr was, in fact, the odd man out, but not because he lacked character. He was odd because he was the only founder
Mardel Fehrenbach
I enjoyed this book. It was well written and fascinating. I admit that I have long been an admirer of Burr and also long been aware that he had his warts as did Hamilton and Jefferson. That, I suppose is one advantage of being the daughter of a historian who felt it was his duty to disabuse me of false impressions garnered from the simplistic views of history taught during my public school days.

That said, I am not a historian my nature or design but I do enjoy reading about history and I found t
Josh Duggan
Dec 02, 2011 Josh Duggan rated it really liked it
Not being an historian of any sort myself (I haven't taken a proper history class since my junior year of high school in 1996-'97), I have to admit that I am no authority on the American Revolution.

With that admittance out in the open, Nancy Isenberg's thoroughly researched 2007 biography of the controversial Aaron Burr is absolutely convincing in painting its portrait of a man who has been short-changed in the larger eye of history. Taking into account the hyper-partisan press, the Alexander Ha
Christopher Carbone
May 04, 2009 Christopher Carbone rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those Who Like Second Chances
This book is a very compelling guide to the life, personality, and times of Aaron Burr, the most mysterious and most vilified of the founding fathers. Isenberg's portrayal is both realistic and forgiving. At times, the author does seem to be apologizing for Burr's many historical idiosyncrasies, but overall the book does a great job in defining why Burr:

-Acted as he did during the election of 1800, the closest election in American history (there was a tie between Burr and Jefferson); how Burr di
Sep 16, 2013 Christopher rated it liked it
How you approach a biography of one of the truly mysterious figures of America's Founding Era?

Well, if you're Nancy Isenberg, you make it clear to the reader in the Introduction that you are the first PROFESSIONAL historian to write a biography of Aaron Burr and that everything you've read about him is WRONG. How do we know this? Because this book was written by a PROFESSIONAL historian. And being written by a PROFESSIONAL historian, you know what's you're about to read is PROFESSIONALLY writte
Nov 20, 2007 Andres rated it really liked it
Very interesting take on Aaron Burr, who most famously killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Most writings on Burr have been critical, and of course, written by his detractors.

The author of this book researches his life and gives us a more factual and unbiased view of Burr's life. She doesn't paint him as an angel, but neither is he the villain and traitor that the Jefferson and Hamilton crowd paint him out to be.

It's a shame that these types of books are rarely read by people nowadays. I'm a hug
Chris Yorgason
I learned a lot about Aaron Burr, which was why I bought the book. But I only give the book two stars because I felt the author tried way too hard to justify Burr's decisions. I felt like I was reading something written by his daughter or granddaughter and found it tiresome. I would have been happy just reading about Burr, the life he led, the decisions he made, etc., without the constant attacks on Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and other Founding Fathers. Further, the constant references to p ...more
Christine SoDomestic
It was great to read a different side of Burr. This book humanized the man and reminded me that the lens with which we view history is not always perfectly clear. It seems from this telling that there are many aspects of Burrs life that could potentially be mere legend.

That being said, when an author continually points out that all other historians have told the story wrong, it actually makes me wonder if this version is accurate. To be fair, much of the book comes across well-sourced.

I could ha
Lindsay Goto
While I enjoy the content and I agree that Aaron Burr has been vilified by those who didn't appreciate him in his time, I kept getting struck by how on his side the biographer was. I kept comparing it mentally to Chernow's biography on Alexander Hamilton and realized that both biographers were very different in how they approached the faults of their subjects. Chernow, while obviously in awe of Hamilton's mind, isn't afraid to call Hamilton a prat. I was expecting something similar here with Bur ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Micah rated it really liked it
What this book does well is use a fair bit of primary source documentations to make it's arguments. The book is definitely biased and an attempt to right the perceived wrongs history has done to Aaron Burr, but I don't find any of it egregious. I do think the bits about his relationship with his daughter was fascinating.
The best thing this book does is contextualize the hit pieces against Burr with the climate of political writing of the time. It gives an understanding of how Burr was even able
Jul 07, 2015 Chrismcginn rated it it was ok
I was inspired to read this when my son came home from coin club discussing the imminent changes on the $10 bill to replace the larger image of Alexander Hamilton with a woman. In the midst of the discussion, a tantalizing story was told of the sitting vice president (Burr) making a dash for the border (New Orleans) as Hamilton lay dying and trying to convince the Louisiana territory to make him leader. Suffice it to say, the facts of that tale were a bit off as I learned by reading most of this ...more
C Baker
Oct 11, 2014 C Baker rated it liked it
Shelves: founding
This biography of Aaron Burr unsuccessfully tries to resurrect his sullied reputation. While as a biography it provides an excellent account of his life, its interpretation of his role and character in the founding era is utterly unconvincing. To give an idea of just how biased the biography is, its title "Fallen Founder" astounds me. While Burr was an officer during the Revolutionary War, seeing most of his action in Canada, he had no hand in the drafting of the Constitution. His primary role d ...more
Jack Hansen
There are other biographies on Aaron Burr that are less partial to this founding father of the United States of America. This reviewer reads several reviews of Nancy Isenberg's rendition during its reading to discover some history enthusiasts prefer one authors version over the other. Ron Chernow is one of the favorite biographers on this list.

Having read Alexander Hamilton's biography, by Ron Chernow, I see the similarities between these two historical figures, regardless of any favoritism bet
Hadyn Kihm
Jun 13, 2016 Hadyn Kihm rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Sadly didn't hold my interest. I think it suffered from the conundrum of being simultaneously too short and too long. Why it was too short: ideas in each paragraph needed to be tied together better to show the relationship and improve the flow of the narrative. It's very tiring to try reading a book that is just idea #1. idea #2. Idea #3 over and over. Like getting hit over the head repeatedly by facts. In the chapter on his family background, the author mentions Jonathan Edwards then mentions A ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Mark rated it liked it
People of a certain age may remember Aaron Burr best as a sandwich-choked laugh line from a milk commercial, but as Nancy Isenberg reminds readers of her book he was so much more than that. A lawyer, soldier, and politician, and expansionist, he had an impressively adventurous life during some of the most dramatic times in American history. Yet Isenberg argues that Burr's standing has suffered from the many scurrilous attacks leveled against him during his career, which have had the effect of de ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 80 81 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America
  • Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution
  • Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations
  • Lafayette
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation
  • John Marshall: Definer of a Nation
  • American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America
  • John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy
  • Thomas Paine and the Promise of America
  • Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: The Extraordinary Post-presidential Life of John Quincy Adams
  • 1812: The War That Forged a Nation
  • The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden Political Genius of an American Icon
  • Adams-Jefferson Letters
  • John Jay: Founding Father
  • The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty
  • The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army
  • Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson
Nancy Isenberg is the author of New York Times bestseller White Trash, and Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, which was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in Biography and won the Oklahoma Book Award for best book in Nonfiction. She is the coauthor, with Andrew Burstein, of Madison and Jefferson. She is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at LSU, and writes regularly for S ...more
More about Nancy Isenberg...

Share This Book