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Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History: 1585-1828

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  183 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
A powerful reinterpretation of the founding of America by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian.

The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years," states Walter McDougall in his preface to Freedom Just Around the Corner. With this statement begins McDougall's most ambitious, original, and uncompromising of histories. McDougall m
ebook, 656 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2004)
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Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A little iconoclastic, not entirely politically correct, but incredibly well-written and engaging and not at all afraid of criticizing America - not with direct moral condemnation, but with the heavy weight of the details of our common past. Sharp on our sharp practices - he finds America a nation of hustlers and hucksters. I would have a historian's disagreements hearing the Puritans described in this way (though he makes a good case), but it more than works for the early 19th c.. And he is unf ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Aug 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: Charlie Sharp
Highly readable.

Did Thomas Jefferson run over his dog? I think the nicest thing he could bring himself to say about Jefferson was that he did actually found the University of Virginia.
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reread - May-July 2011 Still incredibly interesting, informative, and thought provoking. I hadn't noticed previously how McDougall briefly addresses the semi-fabricated English Whig history of democracy and common law that many of the founding fathers were taught. Reading the Cleon Skousen, Tea Party stuff I have recently shows the continuing influence of mediocre quality history. Most of the politicians and parties were for strict constitutional reading when out of power, but felt free to act h ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: swindlers and petty thieves.
Shelves: americanhistory
In his foreword, McDougall is candid about his own doubts about whether America needs yet another multi-volume set of tomes chronicling its history. As the existnece of this book indicates, McDougall answered his own doubts.
The book is built around the central thesis that "America is a nation of hustlers". McDougall's central insight proves to be fresh and interesting enough to carry subject matter that has (as the author admits) been covered many times before.

His sythesis of recent scholarship
Lauren Albert
Oct 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-american
McDougall is very good at showing both sides of prominent figures from every part of the political spectrum. He shows their flaws but without ever neglecting to show their strengths and achievements. I thought he was pretty evenhanded with this. And, as another reviewer points out, he discusses the treatment of Native Americans and African Americans honestly while still trying to show what reasoning was behind it. Not excuses but explanations. An overall good survey.
John Beeler
Jul 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, so it's a return to exceptionalism, even if that exceptionalism is that we're a bunch of exceptional cons and pirates. Still, I find it refreshing and compelling.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In American history books, one usually has to watch out for hidden bias. Certain hot topics tend to be either ignored or overemphasized in many accounts. These include topics like slavery, religion, the faults of the founding fathers, and events that may 'diminish the greatness of America'. McDougall acknowledges all of these dynamics and their importance, but doesn't drone on with agenda on any of them. This is probably the best American history for adult readers out there to be written in the ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is basically part1 to The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy. My fav view of american history.
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conservative in temperament, Freedom Just Around the Corner produces a judiciously balanced history of America from its origins in English political and religious movements to the beginnings of the Age of Jackson (it is the first volume in a proposed three-volume series). In simplest terms, McDougall argues that America's essential character (as well as the driving force behind its eventual political, economic, and cultural success) is that of a hustling, or what might be called "creative corrup ...more
Paul Lunger
There are ways to do books on the early years of American history & then there are ways not to. Walter A. McDougall's "Freedom Just Around the Corner: A New American History: 1585-1828" is not the way to do history. The book itself while being well intentioned tries to tell history from a slightly unbiased & view of the people & also attempts to summarize the important points since most people (he assumes) will already know it. The chapters themselves are at times laborious & als ...more
Mar 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An entertaining read. He tries to cram too much in, and as it is does not live up to his claim that he will do an inclusive social history that gives proper weight to women and African-Americans, as well as other groups (though he does better than many surveys do).
His thesis is that Americans have always been hustlers in both the hard working and the pejorative sense. He's fairly persuasive on that count. He's all excited about the Freemasons (just that many many early big deal Americans were F
Graeme Hinde
Sep 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent history of the founding of a republic and an empire. The prose is propulsive, the biographical sketches are colorful and balanced, neither too reverent nor overly iconoclastic, and the choice of coverage is refreshing without being revisionist. For instance, his analysis of the dominance of freemasonry among our founding fathers is enlightening, and his lengthy discussion on the Erie Canal is surprisingly fascinating. Most importantly, his treatment of slavery throughout the ...more
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Think the US government today is full of scoundrel, hustlers and plutocrats (with a few men of character shouting into the wind)? This is not new. McDougal explores in great detail the period of colonial and early US history, giving great insight into the habits and characters of many man who have today turned into either paragons of virtue or the blackest rogues. The uncomfortable truth, of course, is that it's not that simple. For all the rancor in the capital today, there have been analogues ...more
Michael Kubat
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand why The United States is such a unique place, read this book. This professor of history explains (as stated on the jacket) that Americans have always been in a unique position of enjoying "more opportunity to pursue their ambitions...than any other people in history." The unique character of the American people is built out of a freedom to engage in the whole panoply of human behavior. In other words, they could hustle, to game the system.
Bookmarks Magazine

It might be unfashionable these days to embrace "American exceptionalism." Yet that's exactly what McDougall, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age, has done, to great acclaim. In revealing "who and why we are what we are," he has written an imaginative, evenhanded, and masterful history that shows the freedoms

Lyle Beefelt
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned, with the help of McDougall's unique style of persuasion, how four different visions of freedom took root in America. How England managed to offend all four of those visions of freedom and thoroughly alienate their loyal subjects in the short space of ten years. How the uniquely american freedom produced a civic religion founded on the value of work, prosperity and the rule of law in age where such innovations were largely unheard of...Read the book. You will see it too.
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly my favorite History book ever. The 2nd volume is now available as well and I can't wait to read it.

MacDougal approaches U.S. History with the view that events have been driven by profit and opportunity with a heavy dose of Free Masons shaping things along the way. He is able to keep the reader interested despite the broad array of topics covered.
Jun 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-skim
Fast-paced and engaging (but occasionally glib) narrative of early America. Despite its central "hustler" hypothesis (which is a useful, if occasionally belabored, conceit), it reads more like a collection of essays - and with a style that would be more at home in Rolling Stone than a historical journal.
James Hatton
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A history of America from the first English attempts to settle North America, around 1585, until July 4, 1828. No, the English were not the first here. Here is a story of amazing complexity: political, cultural, sociological, ethnical, religious, etc. Fascinating. No fairy tale here.

(Part 1 of 3; but, to date 3 has not been forthcoming.)
Feb 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a very interesting history for those who are into history. It did seem like it was cut off somewhat arbitrarily, but I suppose any story of history has to stop and start somewhere. McDougall drew some interesting parallels and concepts together so overall it was a very well written book.
Robert Wechsler
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A history of America as con-game, its people as hustlers. Amazing.
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous! So far from the hero worship of most American history. Really shows the messiness of "history". I HIGHLY recommend this book.
Jonathan Barnett
A great alternative version of American History that makes the current works make more sense. We are a nation of hustlers and have always been so.

Hustlers. Think about it.
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“Washington, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Adams, and Jefferson had imagined the American experiment coming to all sorts of bad ends. They never imagined the Federal City overrun by frontiersmen who cared nothing for history and loved only cheap land and credit, whiskey, tobacco, guns, fast women, fast horses, and Jesus. Not necessarily in that order.” 2 likes
“The creation of the United States of America is the central event of the past four hundred years.” 1 likes
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