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To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders
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To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  19 reviews
From a premier historian--twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize--comes a set of illuminating sketches of the characteristics, accomplishments, and ambiguities of some of the key figures of the Revolutionary generation. 65 illustrations. of color.
Hardcover, 185 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2003)
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This little volume (150 pages plus notes in the paperback edition) consists of five essays abstracting many of Bailyn’s larger historiographic theses concerning the American Revolution and its leading participants. Two of the essays—“Jefferson and the Ambiguities of Freedom” and “The Federalist Papers”— strike me as quite convincing. Two others—“Politics and the Creative Imagination” and “Atlantic Dimensions”—could use some fleshing out, but are definitely interesting starting points for discuss ...more
A rather provocative work by a well known scholar who posits that the politics of Revolutionary America were based on provincialism. In essence, the American Revolution pitted metropolitan (i.e. European) worldliness and sophistication against that of the Provincials. This apparent lack of sophistication was used by Franklin and others as they promoted the country during the Revolutionary Era.
In the debate over the Constitution and the form government would take there were distinct differences a
David Eppenstein
I am a avid reader of history and I'm especially interested in our American and constitutional history. Saying that I must report that this book was pretty thin, literally and figuratively, on both of those subjects. I cannot say that I found my knowledge of the events or concepts discussed to have been anyway significantly increased. The book is certainly well written but not particularly informative for any but a new student of the subjects discussed.
Bailyn examines the Founding Fathers through a series of five essays that apply vastly differing analytical frameworks. Through examination of artistic representations, architecture, supreme court precedent, and contemporary political context he is able to demonstrate how the provincial nature of the United States helped foster the "creative flights of imagination" the Founders exhibited in crafting the nation.
Reading more about the process from which the American Constitution emerged is one of my new resolutions. Bernard Bailyn and Edward S. Corwin are two writers whose work I know has been routinely admired in the recent half-century, thus I start with them.

Bailyn's work here is quite eclectic, from theoretical rumination to multimedia symbolic interpretation (his discussion of the various busts of Franklin was fascinating), but he is always respectfully restrained, never hyperbolic or inflammatory,
I borrowed this book from Nich, who is the early American History expert in our home. I, have still never had formal education of Early American history. However, I did enjoy Bailyn's 5 essays on various topics surrounding the American Revolution. At first I thought my favorite essay would be the second one, on Jefferson's ambiguities and how he struggled with his idealism and the realistic problems he faced throughout his life, but then I read the essay on the Federalist Papers and now I'm torn ...more
Jake M.
This book is a collection of short essays on the ingenuity of America's founding fathers. Topics range from the societal conditions favorable to political experimentation, to the chameleon-like image of Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Each essay demonstrates how America did not quite know how to see itself yet knew what it wanted to become. Bailyn is a complex thinker who can communicate with academic and history buff alike. While the essay format may steer some readers away, others may get bogged d ...more
Tres Herndon
This set of essays about the Founding Fathers and the documents they created was interesting, but it would have been nice if the author had tied them all together into a single narrative.

I thought the most interesting piece was on the Federalist Papers (Chapter 4). It's amazing how many of the dangers warned by the anti-Federalists came true - high taxation, the federal government dominating the states, etc. Didn't happen overnight, and I'm glad they didn't win the ratification debate, but their
David Abraham
idealism and pragmatism
Dave Wilson
A brilliant, fascinating exploration of issues beyond the mere "who wrote what and when" of the key American revolutionary texts. Wide-ranging, very well contextualised, written so that a reader with an average interest in the subject (like me) can understand it. Recommended to anyone who wants to get behind and beyond the characters and simple events of the revolution, and explore the thinking, tensions and impacts of it all.
Robert Clay
Chapters 2 (Jefferson and the Ambiguities of Freedom) and 4 (The Federalist Papers) were excellent. Chapter 1 was also very good, demonstrating the social/economic differences between America and Britain at the time by examining the homes of the wealthy in both countries. The remaining two chapters were interesting, by no means bad, but I think their messages would have been better served with less minutiae and more substance.
Usefully frames essays on founding fathers with reference to art critic Ken Clark's essay on the difference between Metropolitan and Provincial art. Metro art begins as the creative trend-setter, but becomes stale, repetitive, full of itself. Provincial art, in the meantime, finds unique, authentic & powerful means of artistic expression....
Scott Ford
Conclusion: Representation was established not to galvanize private interests, but to mold various interests into a collective consensus. Integration, not exclusion and isolation.
An excellent introduction to the works of one of America's greatest historians. I cannot recommend him highly enough!
Craig J.
To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders by Bernard Bailyn (2004)
An eye-opening view of the founding fathers.
Polly Callahan
also interdisciplinary... art, history
Matthew Sutton
great set of essays about the founders.
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Bernard Bailyn is an American historian, author, and professor specializing in U.S. Colonial and Revolutionary-era History. He has been a professor at Harvard since 1953. Bailyn has won the Pulitzer Prize for History twice (in 1968 and 1987). In 1998 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected him for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the ...more
More about Bernard Bailyn...
The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 The Debate on the Constitution : Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles, and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification : Part One, September 1787-February 1788 (Library of America) The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction The Debate on the Constitution : Federalist and Antifederalist Speeches, Articles and Letters During the Struggle over Ratification, Part Two: January to August 1788 (Library of America)

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