Beyond the Revolution: A History of American Thought from Paine to Pragmatism

William H. Goetzmann, Author . Basic $35 (456p) ISBN 978-0-465-00495-9

This lively work makes a case not often advanced these days: that the United States owes much to thinking men and women from the days of the Puritans until after the Civil War. Goetzmann, winner of the Pulitzer and Francis Parkman prizes for Explorations and Empires , robustly challenges those who scorn the role of thinkers and contend that the nation was built only by “doers.” He provides a history of lines of thought owing much to Europe but rooted firmly in native ground. Although he tries to knit together his story with a theme of growing American cosmopolitanism and openness to new knowledge, what gives coherence to Goetzmann's survey is the seriousness with which he treats every figure. John Winthrop, James Madison, Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass: they and countless others, many scarcely known (including scientists, often omitted from studies of American thought) tread these pages. The result is an authoritative, readable survey of what from others' pens has proved heavy going. Unfortunately, despite his subtitle Goetzmann fails to cover the Pragmatists, arguably the nation's most distinctive thinkers. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2008
Release date: 03/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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