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Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty [Hardcover]

Yasmin Sabina Khan
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

11 Feb 2010
Conceived in the aftermath of the American Civil War and the grief that swept France over the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Statue of Liberty has been a potent symbol of the nation's highest ideals since it was unveiled in 1886. Dramatically situated on Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island) in the harbor of New York City, the statue has served as a reminder for generations of immigrants of America's long tradition as an asylum for the poor and the persecuted. Although it is among the most famous sculptures in the world, the story of its creation is little known.

In Enlightening the World, Yasmin Sabina Khan provides a fascinating new account of the design of the statue and the lives of the people who created it, along with the tumultuous events in France and the United States that influenced them. Khan's narrative begins on the battlefields of Gettysburg, where Lincoln framed the Civil War as a conflict testing whether a nation "conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . . can long endure." People around the world agreed with Lincoln that this question--and the fate of the Union itself--affected the "whole family of man." Inspired by the Union's victory and stunned by Lincoln's death, Édouard-René Lefebvre de Laboulaye, a legal scholar and noted proponent of friendship between his native France and the United States, conceived of a monument to liberty and the exemplary form of government established by the young nation. For Laboulaye and all of France, the statue would be called La Liberté Éclairant le Monde--Liberty Enlightening the World.

Following the statue's twenty-year journey from concept to construction, Khan reveals in brilliant detail the intersecting lives that led to the realization of Laboulaye's dream: the Marquis de Lafayette; Alexis de Tocqueville; the sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, whose commitment to liberty and self-government was heightened by his experience of the Franco-Prussian War; the architect Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study architecture at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris; and the engineer Gustave Eiffel, who pushed the limits for large-scale metal construction. Also here are the contributions of such figures as Senators Charles Sumner and Carl Schurz, the artist John La Farge, the poet Emma Lazarus, and the publisher Joseph Pulitzer.

While exploring the creation of the statue, Khan points to possible sources--several previously unexamined--for the design. She links the statue's crown of rays with Benjamin Franklin's image of the rising sun and makes a clear connection between the broken chain under Lady Liberty's foot and the abolition of slavery. Through the rich story of this remarkable national monument, Enlightening the World celebrates both a work of human accomplishment and the vitality of liberty.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press (11 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801448514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801448515
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,942,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Back Cover

"Enlightening the World is an original and illuminating exploration of the complex history of Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty and a fascinating quest for the ideas and values it represented for both the French and American people of the nineteenth century."--Susan Dunn, author of Sister Revolutions: French Lightning, American Light

"In drawing the Statue of Liberty deeper into the context of American political ideology, Yasmin Sabina Khan reminds us that though the 'Goddess of Liberty' hailed from France, much of the thought behind her creation was informed by the American achievement of political democracy"--Barry Moreno, Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Statue of Liberty National Monument, National Park Service, editor of The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia

"Enlightening the World is a superb account of the high ideals that drove the conception, design, and execution of the Statue of Liberty. Yasmin Sabina Khan makes it clear that the monument we see today emerged from the age of democratic revolutions and liberal political ideologies such as the rights of man and freedom from tyranny and slavery. This important book explains why the Statue of Liberty still has immense relevance today."--John Bodnar, Chancellor's Professor of History, Indiana University, author of Bonds of Affection: Americans Define their Patriotism and coauthor of The Changing Face of the Statue of Liberty

About the Author

Yasmin Sabina Khan, an independent scholar, is author of Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book! 23 May 2011
Format:Hardcover
Yasmin Sabina Khan is best known for her writings on modern skyscraper architecture. As the daughter of Fazlur Khan, the engineer who designed many architectural triumphs in the Chicago skyline and around the world, as well as the designer of the structural underpinnings that keep these buildings standing, who better to author this beautifully-written book on the Statue of Liberty. Ms. Khan has woven the story that spans not only the physical statue, but also the times in which this, one of the most well-known statues in the world, was conceived.

Ms. Khan's work encompasses the greater history of the Statue in the context of its multinational symbolism and meaning from the end of the Revolutionary War until final construction was completed. The Statue was a gift to the fledgling United States from France, but in reality, the design, structural elements, and symbolism wrought into the Statue have deep meanings for freedom in all cultures.

This is more than a book on historical architecture. This truly is the story of the European and American world's leap for freedom across not only the United States but also the world.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not enlightening enough 14 Dec 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The fascinating story of the Statue of Liberty deserves to be told and to be told well, but this author is not quite up to the task. The book lacks lightness of touch and suffers from an over-earnest academic approach.

The author has cerainly conducted painstaking research which shows in the amount of detail included. One often wonders, however, whether many minute biographical details of persons often loosely connected to the Statue of Liberty project bear much relevance to the subject matter at hand. There are lengthy passages devoted to the monument's import and meaning supported by numerous quotes - but they often seem repetitious, superfluous or overly didactic.

On the other hand, not enough is told about the technical aspects of this magnificent feat of sculptural art and engineering, with some important details missing entirely. Readers do not learn for instance the interesting story of Miss Liberty's torch: contrary to the sculptor's original design, it was made into a lighthouse, with latticed metal-and-glass grid; the gold plated copper skin was only reinstated in the course of the 1980s renovation.

The biggest disappointment of the book, however, are the pictures: few and far between, all black-and-white and some of very poor quality. Sadly, not one of the photos included gives justice to the majestic beauty of this unique monument.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read! 7 April 2010
By Chin-Chin Yeh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ms. Khan tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the Statue of Liberty in her latest work. Ms. Khan's lively presentation of the facts kept me turning the pages, utterly captivated at every turn. While the Statue of Liberty is arguably one of the most important statues in the US, much of her fascinating history is unknown. Ms. Khan walks us through each of the events which culminated in the Statue of Liberty as we now know her. The history of the Statue reveals so much about the US as a country; this is a must read for anyone interested in history or the Statue of Liberty.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn about the real history of the statue of Liberty 6 April 2010
By Maria-luisa F. Mansfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent research. This is the first book with serious research about the history of the statue of liberty. One learns what was happening in the USA and France before and at the time of the construction of the Statue of Liberty.
We thank the author for her contribution to American History.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening the World 22 Mar 2013
By C. F. William Maurer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
My favorite "text" on the Statue of Liberty. Well written and covers so much more than most books on the "lady." Not only is it great from an historical point of view but the author seems to have a real feel for the Statue and "building" and planning a large project like this.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Service and Product 22 Jan 2012
By Mindy H. Kronenberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book as a gift and it arrived quickly and as promised. I would definitely order from this vendor again.
4.0 out of 5 stars Thin but useful history of Lady Liberty 18 Jan 2012
By R. D'Alessandro III - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An excellent but thin survey of the people and the forces behind the creation of the Statue of Liberty. The author gives us brief biographical sketches of the French citizens - Eduoard Laboulaye, Auguste Bartholdi, Gustave Eiffel - whose passion for liberty in their own country and their admiration of what they saw in the American experiment energized them to offer the most magnificent gift any one nation has ever given another (that didn't have warriors hidden inside...). We also get biographical sketches on the Americans who worked on the other side of the Atlantic - Richard Morris Hunt, chief among them, but also Joseph Pulitzer - to make sure their was a strong reception and a home for Lady Liberty once she arrived. Emma Lazarus's story is all too briefly told, reflecting her own shortened life, but how her famous poem came about is an enjoyable companion to the engineering tales shared in this book. The overarching theme of how self-government in the young American republic inspired those in France yearning to establish a similarly enduring one gives powerful meaning and reason to why the citizens of one nation would be so moved as to give the other nation, and the world, an eternal symbol of liberty.
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