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To Begin the World Anew (Vintage) Paperback – 1 Feb 2004
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A group of unimpeachable assessments . . . A gem of a book, rich in understanding . . . A thoroughly urbane account of the provincial wellsprings of our nation s life. The New York Times
Seldom have . . . the American Founders . . . been celebrated with such depth and sophistication. The New York Review of Books
In the great flood of books about the American Revolution . . . To Begin the World Anew occupies a place all its own. A closely argued exploration. The Washington Post Book World
One of America s most discerning historians. His thinking is subtle. His style is forceful. . . . Throughout he retains a sense of wonder that those men in a clump of distant British provinces could have wrought a political system, a view of the world, that is so imaginative and enduring. Los Angeles Times
Deep, creative, brilliant, and provocative. In a word: dazzling. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"A group of unimpeachable assessments . . . A gem of a book, rich in understanding . . . A thoroughly urbane account of the provincial wellsprings of our nation's life." --The New York Times
From the Inside Flap
Two time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Bernard Bailyn has distilled a lifetime of study into this brilliant illumination of the ideas and world of the Founding Fathers. In five succinct essays he reveals the origins, depth, and global impact of their extraordinary creativity.
The opening essay illuminates the central importance of America's provincialism to the formation of a truly original political system. In the chapters following, he explores the ambiguities and achievements of Jefferson's career, Benjamin Franklin's changing image and supple diplomacy, the circumstances and impact of the "Federalist Papers, and the continuing influence of American constitutional thought throughout the Atlantic world. To Begin the World Anew enlivens our appreciation of how America came to be and deepens our understanding of the men who created it.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This very short book has more information in it about the founding of the United States than all the other books I have read while studying and reading about American history over the decades. Thank you Bernard Bailyn. If you don't have an appreciation for the risk the country's founders took, have no idea how clever a diplomate Ben Franklin was, have never read any of the anti-federalist papers, this book will introduce you to all of this in various chapters. But the thinking behind Bailyn's theory of what allowed these men to create a totally new form of government is even more fascinating. It was an amazing time with an amazing group of imperfect, but thinking men -- men who could think beyond conventional wisdom and who, fortunately, were around to carry the country forward for close to a half century.
I can't remember if Bailyn touched on this but Jackson was the first president not involved with the country's founding. When I thought of the changes that occured beginning with his presidency, I stopped for a moment and thanked the founding fathers for what they did and for staying around to direct the country for near a half century.
In "To Begin the World Anew," really a collection of five essays prepared over several years, Bailyn continues to emphasize the power of the republican ideology to shape the course of history and lays out these themes in discussions of the American revolution as a creative enterprise, Thomas Jefferson and the paradox of freedom and slavery, Benjamin Franklin in Paris, the power of the "Federalist Papers," and the role of American revolutionary ideals on other democratic efforts worldwide. As always, Bailyn is fascinated by the delta that always exists between the ideal motivating action and the less than perfect implementation of it. Accordingly, the knife-edge dichotomy between the argument for the Constitution as a means of creating a stable and productive nation is balanced against very real concerns for the rights of individuals. Bailyn explicitly probes this problem in his essay on the "Federalist Papers" but also does so in his other essays in this volume.
In general, "To Begin the World Anew" is a respectable restatement of ideas previously well expressed in Bailyn's writings. If one wants to read only one work by Bernard Bailyn for a sense of his thought on the Revolutionary era, however, the appropriate book remains "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution."