Clinton Rice's Reviews > Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

really liked it
Read from February 14 to April 10, 2012

This was a very good read of early post-revolutionary America, chronicling the early Federalist efforts to centralize and gentrify the government followed by the Republican push to democratize life and revert power back to the states, with the philosophical and practical implications of those competing ideologies when put into practice.
Since I read Empire of Liberty as the second book of the Oxford series, I assumed going in that the narrative would be very similar. In a broad sense, it was (both books contain sequential stories at first, followed by some cross-sectional elements, followed again by sequential conclusions), but Empire did more than The Glorious Cause to draw explicit ties to times beyond its included scope, which I found a nice addition. Empire also adhered less tightly to sequential facts, dealing with them almost in passing as evidence of or factors in evolving philosophies.
The book's greatest strength is in explaining the varying economic/religious/cultural evolutions that shaped the relationships between various parts of the country; it was a wonderful look for me to see some elements of Americana that I had thought to be timeless and others that I had assumed to be quite modern, and see the way in which this early era featured fast-moving changes (e.g., the democratization of spiritual knowledge combined with frontier life, and their implications for denominational changes in Christianity) that shaped our culture in long-lasting ways.
The one distracting editorial weakness that I saw over and over was the use of indirect superlatives (no one <verb>ed more than <person> to ...). While occasionally annoying, this tic did little to impede my enjoyment and appreciation of the subject matter that was conveyed through the book.

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 12, 2012 05:34AM) (new)

I always enjoy your comments about this series. I am eager to get past some things on my own list in order to start enjoying these books. They are definitely on my MUST-read list.

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