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Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,690 ratings  ·  255 reviews
The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in the newest volume in the series, one of America's most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early ...more
Hardcover, 778 pages
Published October 26th 2009 by Oxford University Press
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  4,690 ratings  ·  255 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
The amount of research that went into this book is amazing as is the ability to condense it all into a readable format. Much is covered, from the putting togetherbof s new government, to the roles of blacks and women in said government. The Louisiana Purchase and the war of 1812, art and culture, knowledge and education. My rating reflects a preference of mine, I am drawn to biographies that cover one specific area, one specific person at a time. This reminded me of my American history textbook ...more
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Back when I was in college, I majored in finance and minored in girls. I graduated magna cum laude in one, and failed brilliantly in the other. At one point, trying to change my luck with the coeds, I decided to pursue the hipster lifestyle. Since it was relatively cheap to grow out my hair and act indifferent, I figured this was the best way to get girls, other than being forthright and honest and asking them on dates. Part of being a hipster is progressiveness: you dream of the Peace Corps, si ...more
Nov 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have heard a lot of good things about Wood's historical perspective and this period of American history is one that I am only familiar with in its broad outlines. I have enjoyed the enlightening process. As you can see, I have been at this book for over six years. You would have to be of a different temperament than my own to be able to read it straight through in a month.

Wood is very enjoyable in bite-size portions. I have learned a lot about one of the most critical (if not THE most critica
robin friedman
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rip Van Winkle's America

At the outset of his history of the United States between 1789 - 1815, Professor Gordon Wood aptly describes his subject as "Rip Van Winkle's America". Rip Van Winkle, of course, was the subject of a story by Washington Irving. Rip goes to sleep in his small village prior to the American Revolution and wakes up 20 years later to find a vastly changed United States, larger in size, disputatious, commercial, and substantially more democratic than had been the case when Rip
Jason Pettus
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It's hard to beat Oxford University Press when it comes to authoritative yet lively looks at highly detailed periods in history; and here's their latest in their modern series about the history of America, written by former Pulitzer winner Gordon S. Wood and in this case covering just the years 1789 (when
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
In 1789 the United States started what amounted to a national reboot, as a new republic created by the ratification of the Constitution began operation. This was a massive and far-reaching endeavor, one that involved the creation of new offices and branches of government, the redefinition of institutions, and a new assessment of relationships with both the thirteen states and the American people. What was at stake was nothing less than the very survival of the country as a union of states, as al ...more
James Thane
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is the capstone of Gordon S. Wood's long career, and an outstanding addition to the Oxford History of the United States.

Wood surveys the history of the U. S. from the adoption of the Constitution through the close of the War of 1812, a time during which the survival of the new nation was by no means a sure thing. As he describes, this was a time of enormous political, social, cultural and economic change, and it's safe to say that things did not turn out the way that many of the Found
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Another solid entry in the Oxford History of the U.S.

For a further review: .
Bryn Dunham
Oct 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, history
From the Constitution's eventual ratification to the aftermath of the War of 1812, this is an epic history of the U.S. The author, Dr. Gordon S. Wood is a respected historian and professor who is a very acomplished writer of early American history and this is no exception. At 738 pages (paperback)this is a balanced to "center-left" history book, which is a little different than what I am used to but it was well done. He is definitely a pro-Jeffersonian Republican who were opposed to the Federali ...more
Brian Pate
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I listened to the audiobook version on my way to and from work. (That helped me push through some of the less interesting chapters.)

After reading biographies of the first five presidents, this volume in the Oxford History of the US helped tie up the loose ends for me. Wood spent a lot of time dissecting the class distinctions of early America. His descriptions of the Federalist and Republican parties were helpful to understand the emergence of political parties in America. Chapters on slavery (
Christopher Saunders
After a second read-through, Gordon S. Wood's Empire of Liberty remains my favorite volume in the Oxford History of the United States. Covering the American Republic's fractious early years (1789 to 1815), it's a tour de force mixture of sociological survey, political history and penetrating analysis of a country struggling to reinvent itself as an independent power. Wood, a veteran historian on the American Revolution, spends a lot of time demarcating the differences between Federalist and Repu ...more
Mar 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Gordon Wood has been working on this book for over 20 years and it shows. The sheer amount of insight, analysis and historical detail is spectacular. Every paragraph has a point. Every word counts.

I went to a round-table discussion recently where ten judges and ten lawyers (I am one of the latter) met with Gordon Wood. Wood was down-to-earth and funny.

A judge asked Wood how he was able to accomplish writing such a prodigious book. It seemed impossible to do.

Wood's modest response. "Actually i
Brian Willis
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with every superb entry in the Oxford US History series, as well as every superb book from Gordon Wood, this one is likely to remain the benchmark for this era for years to come.

Wood covers the nuts and bolts of the major events of the first four Presidencies: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison. That is to be expected, and they are all well covered as to the major political consequences of those decisions. The great bulk of this book, however, is dedicated to the republican revolution.

Christopher Carbone
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who want to know how our country started
Empire of Liberty is a gripping narrative on the first 25+ years of the United States of America, the story of how the founding fathers started the nation, how the country saw itself, and how the nation was defined through constant- sometimes suffocating -contradictions.

The book begins with George Washington contemplating the Presidency and how the states contemplated giving up true Independence for interdependency; how being a state subject to a Federal Government chaffed them. As the story un
Paul Donahue
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So many history books are just summations of political and military events between two fixed dates. Empire of Liberty goes far beyond that structure, going as far back as the early 1700s and all the way up to the Mexican and Civil Wars to put points and stories into full context. Not just wars and politics, but economics, commerce, religion, education, family life, social changes, slavery, diplomacy, westward expansion, science, philosophy, it’s all in there. Much like the other Wood book I rece ...more
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Even though the author was slightly biased towards Republicanism and very biased towards Jefferson vs the Federalist founding fathers (all you need to do is compare the adjectives he uses for Jefferson vs Washington, Adams or Hamilton), I felt that he did an excellent job of comparing the positive and negative aspects of the two dominant politcal ideologies of the era (e.g. the economic and political stability of Federalism vs. populist anarchy of Jeffersonian Rep ...more
Only got halfway through before I had to return book to library. What I've learned so far:

* If someone says they want to return to the ways of the founding fathers, ask which one(s).

* Most complaints people make about government and politics today were being made more or less from the time the Articles of Confederation took effect.

* Many of the complaints about social groups were being made too, especially those about an educated elite, businessmen, and ordinary folks who insists on a seat at th
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy Perron
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Before I begin I would like to point out that I actually had the opportunity to meet Professor Wood when he was giving a lecture at the University of New England in September 2010. I was very impressed by his presentation and he even signed my copy of Empire of Liberty.

As I continue my march through the ages in which I explore all the historical eras of the United States of America, my journey takes me to the beginning of our modern government. Since I finished Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious
May 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
How can an "empire", with its connotation of control by an "emperor" at the top and “liberty” with its suggestion of freedoms enjoyed by individuals at the bottom co-exist? They can't, or at least not easily, and that's the paradox explored by this history of our republic's first 25 years. There are fault lines that develop in these years as divisive and troublesome today as they were then. They emerge in nineteen chapters which interweave discussions about individuals (Washington, Jefferson, Ma ...more
Bob H
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
It's the childhood of the Republic. In this volume, an Oxford History that fills a gap between the Revolutionary period and the early industrial years, Gordon Wood provides us with a multifaceted story. It's not just a linear story of how the U.S. evolved from its new Constitutional rebirth in 1789 through the end of the War of 1812, which, he tells us, definitely broke the U.S. from its British cultural and civic roots.

It's also a story of many beginnings in American culture and society. We lea
Evan Brandt
Mar 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
As my son likes to point out, it has taken me quite a while to read this book.

But as I have replied, it is more by design than any difficulty with the material. This is the kind of broad sweeping history that requires thought and not a sharply focused biography of one person put into context.

This IS the context into which future biographies will be put.

All too often, as I recall it, American history is broken up into which war was fought when, and what happened in between them.

Although this book
Brian Collins
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Gordon Wood introduces this period of American history with the story of Rip Van Winkle, which is an apt illustration of the astounding cultural transformation that occurred in the period from the end of the Revolutionary War to the end of the War of 1812. Wood chronicles these changes with illuminating discussions of the intellectual currents of this period, how they affected the events of this period, and how, in turn, the events made plausible or implausible various intellectual currents. For ...more
Thomas Paul
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A lot of us think we know about our founding fathers and what they planned for America. But did you know that a lot of our founding fathers intended for the US to be a monarchy? That the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans despised each other so much that it makes the political parties of today look like a love-fest? That the Washington administration built a very strong federal government that taxed and spent their way to a prosperous nation? That our founding fathers had very little interes ...more
Jan 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Excellent overview of the culture and times of the early Republic. For me, this book provoked a lot of re-thinking about the nature of the American Revolution. Previously, i had thought of it less as a revolution, and more in the Jacques Barzun formulation, as a continuation of the evolutionary politics of Whiggish Britain. I'm not entirely sure Barzun was wrong, but Wood makes an excellent case for the radicalism of the Founding, particularly after Jefferson and the Republicans ascended in 1800 ...more
Bob Price
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
You know you have a problem when you have a favorite author about Revolutionary and Colonial American history. Being addicted to history can in fact create trouble. People may view you as boring. You may try to justify a high cable bill so you can watch the History Channel. You may drag your family to every single historical site you can find (especially in lieu of other, more fun spots....'what Great America? We can go to Plymouth!!!)

Anyway, Gordon Wood's magnificent history of post revolutiona
Jan 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Whew. Took me long enough to get through this 750 page epic. But well worth it. Woods’ exemplary analysis into the politics and culture of the beginning of America is, in a most welcome way, reassuring: the partisanship, the rhetoric, the heated debates on the roll of government taking place in the Founding generation are all so applicable to today’s political climate that it is almost unsettling. I mean, I guess on the one hand it might be taken to illustrate how ignorant of their history that ...more
Nov 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow. So I can definitly put this one down as my "accomplishment" book of the year. At 700 pages plus, with an awkward trim size that made it difficult to tote around with me, nevermind hold in my hands, this book was a challenge, though one that I am glad I undertook. I would pretty much recommend this only to super history geeks, as it was dense. I would compare it to a textbook really--as its extremly well organized and researched look on the United States post-Revolutionary War, something I r ...more
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am in love with the Oxford US history series. This one and the next are long, cover basically everything, and are pretty well paced considering how complete they are attempting to be. If, like me, your understanding of US history between the Constitutional Convention and the War of 1812 is "something something XYZ affair something" then this will get you caught right up. My personal takeaways are mostly about how tenuous the early republic was: all worried about a return to monarchy, reabsorpt ...more
Grindy Stone
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Give it about 40 pages and you will be transported to those golden days of America that Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and the rest of the moonbat brigade will almost convince you they were alive in the late-18th century, so wistful are their depictions and accounts of post-Revolution America.

Surprise surprise things were a little more sketchy, and the future of this country was anything but assured, even with a pretty good Constitution at the Founding Fathers' disposal. Take the time to get through
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Gordon S. Wood is Professor of History at Brown University. He received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution and the 1970 Bancroft Prize for The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 .

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