Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Henry Adams and the Making of America” as Want to Read:
Henry Adams and the Making of America
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Henry Adams and the Making of America

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  86 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
One of our greatest historians offers a surprising new view of the greatest historian of the nineteenth century, Henry Adams.

Wills showcases Henry Adams's little-known but seminal study of the early United States and elicits from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixation, his extensive foreign travel, his poli
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published September 14th 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2005)
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 Henry Adams and the Making of America, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Henry Adams and the Making of America

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Erik Graff
Feb 14, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: American history/Henry Adams fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This book is several things at once. It is American history covering the Jefferson and Madison administrations. Yet it is this history as seen by reflecting on Henry Adams' life and his nine-volume History of the United States of America, and criticizing, when (rarely) appropriate, Adams' text and (often and vigorously) other commentators and critics.

There is a thesis running throughout. On the surface it is to maintain that, contrary to most interpretations, Adams saw the administrations of Jef
Jul 02, 2008 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Adams, according to Wills, is underappreciated and, in particular, his nine volume History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison is a neglected masterpiece. Wills’s goal is clearly twofold: prove his point and get you to read the masterpiece. However, when I am reading a single volume book summarizing a masterpiece of nine volumes I admit I’m thinking better than two birds with one stone is getting ten volumes by reading one. But Wills ...more
Apr 30, 2009 Eric_W marked it as to-read
Wills decries our ignorance of Henry Adams great history of the early nineteenth century. (I fear I belong to the vast number of ignoramuses with regard to this work.) Wills sets out to rectify that nescience. Apparently, Adams even had a very different slant on the Jeffersonians, arguing that their four terms at the beginning of the 19th century provided for the development of a national unity that they seemingly eschewed publicly, ostensibly supporting a decentralized and weak government. In ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Garry Wills is the great elucidator. Whether as biographer, essayist, or parser of historical documents, Wills has an enviable ability to aggrandize the individual. It's a skill that brought him the Pulitzer Prize for Lincoln at Gettysburg and has made his name a familiar byline on the best-seller lists with works like Inventing America and Why I Am a Catholic. Critics greet his work with mixed reviews, less for his skill as a writer than for his choice of subject. In his attempt to winnow down

Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Very good recap of Adam's classic multi-volume "History of the United States During the Administrations of Jefferson and Madison." Wills de-revisionizes the historian's viewpoint of Adams that he was an apologist for the Presidents in his family and for New England, and anti-Republican and anti-Southern.

Wills show how Adams, instead of attacking the Republican Virginians Jefferson and Madison or clairming that they discredited themselves by turning into Federalists, traced the United States in t
Charles Stephen
Feb 02, 2015 Charles Stephen rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
I was reading this book in tandem with a biography of Adams's wife, Clover. I disliked the way Garry Wills puffed himself in the opening chapter of this book, even if it was at the expense of long-dead historians. By the time I abandoned the book, I was tired of Wills's parsing of Adams interpretations of the history of the young republic. Also, I felt like I learned more about Henry Adams the man from the life story of the woman who married him and subsequently committed suicide. Wills's book ...more
Kevin A.
Aug 27, 2012 Kevin A. rated it liked it
The first (and best) part of this book, is an essay arguing that Henry Adams is over praised for his autobiography, written when he was a crotchety old man. Instead, Wills praises Adams's nine-volume history of the Jefferson and Madison administrations, and notes Henry's admiration for the Southern Democrats at the expense of his own presidential ancestors. (Wills himself is infatuated with the Virginia dynasty and foolishly dismisses New England as a backwater, which was in fact the nation's ...more
Mar 14, 2009 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Garry Wills is a wonderful writer and this is an very interesting subject. It is really about Henry Adams' multi-volume history of America as much as (or more than) the history itself. Henry Adams was at the forefront of the writing of history--going back to the sources rather than making it up. [I still think most of it is made up, but that's besides the point.:]
Seriously, we went to war in 1812 because we (James Madison) supported Napoleon against England and thought we could take over Canada
Jun 23, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing
A distillation of and commentary on Adams 9 volume histories of the administrations of Jefferson and Madison. Essential for those who no longer have the leisure to read the originals. Adams was a Zelig like character who was part of the politics and artistic activity of his time. As the grandson and great-grandson of presidents he had access to archival material not available to many others. But it was his insight that was impressive. After more than a hundred years his work still remains ...more
Jun 27, 2008 John rated it liked it
This was a good book with plenty of interestign details about America, history teaching in the US and Henry Adams himself. I learned quite a bit while reading this book. The books biggest problem was it's concept of redeeming Henry Adams does not really make for entertaining reading. Wills succeeds in proving his thesis, but it does get very repetitive when he is compelled to bash Adams critics. I'd rather have been reading more about the historical points than tally all the ways in which Adams ...more
Kathy  Petersen
This was tough: both Henry Adams and Garry Wills are analytical thinkers and writers - and much smarter than I am. In addition I am not a big fan of military history, of which there was an abundance. Having groused about all that, I now declare that i was truly immersed in Wills' analyses of Adams' multi-volune histories and Admas himself. I finished with even more interest and appreciation of Adams that I previously enjoyed.
Apr 23, 2007 nate rated it really liked it
When I talk to other people who teach U.S. History we always complain about the time spent on teaching about the War of 1812. Wills explains why this era is interesting and significant. Plus he gives us insight into the mind of one of the first great American historians and a member of one of the first great American families.
Jul 08, 2008 Melanie rated it did not like it
Okay, I couldn't get past the first chapter. It lost me at, " But Adams was aware that he was mired in a pretenious muddle of families, of whom the Adamses were the last and the least". It went on and on and on and on like that, Poor Henry Adams...until I closed the book.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
The chapter "Boston Historians" is an excellent one for those interested in the evolution of historical thought and methods.
Apr 20, 2016 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Very engaging read. Others have already commented well enough. I'll read it again in five years. Really held my attention.
Lee Kuper
Lee Kuper rated it liked it
Nov 16, 2016
Paul rated it really liked it
Aug 05, 2008
Stephen rated it it was amazing
Jun 23, 2008
Deb rated it liked it
Jan 04, 2015
Ed Grimmer
Ed Grimmer rated it really liked it
Nov 27, 2014
Bart rated it liked it
May 09, 2010
Billy Candelaria
Billy Candelaria rated it liked it
Feb 15, 2014
Mike rated it really liked it
May 26, 2008
Charles rated it liked it
Aug 03, 2013
Peter rated it liked it
Jan 03, 2009
Kelly Korby
Kelly Korby rated it liked it
Feb 28, 2012
Howard rated it liked it
May 07, 2013
Tim rated it it was ok
Dec 29, 2007
Richard rated it liked it
Dec 02, 2012
Brunhilde rated it liked it
Mar 31, 2012
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • John Jay: Founding Father
  • America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735-1918
  • Tocqueville's Discovery of America
  • The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments
  • The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It
  • History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson
  • Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution
  • Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876-1915
  • Writings
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century
  • The Life and Times of Cotton Mather
  • William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism
  • Hidden History: Exploring Our Secret Past
  • Dante in Love
  • Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752
  • The Idea of History
  • Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution
Garry Wills is an author and historian, and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1993, he won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, which describes the background and effect of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.

More about Garry Wills...

Share This Book