The Idea of America

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The Idea of America: Reflection on the Birth of the United States, by Gordon Wood. New York: The Penguin Press, 2011. 385 pages. Reviewed by Reah Monroe.

I am reviewing The Idea of America: Reflection on the Birth of the United States to better understand the significance of the American Revolution and it’s lasting effect on the world. Gordon Wood is a Pulitzer Prize winning author that is at the top of his field and is an expert on the American Revolution. Gordon Wood is the Alva O. Way University Professor Emeritus at Brown University. He has won numerous literary awards for his works on the American Revolution, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for The Radicalism of the American Revolution. Wood is obsessed with the American Revolution and has spent his entire career concentrating on the subject. Wood describes himself, “I am a simple hedgehog. Throughout my career I have been most interested in the American Revolution and political, cultural, and social changes that it engendered.” (Introduction)

Wood’s obsession with the American Revolution is based on his belief of its superior importance in history. Every event that takes place today can be traced back to the birth of the United States and the American Revolution. That idea has defined who we are and why we are so unique compared to the rest of the world.

This is a collection of essays where Wood explains the origins of the Revolution. Beginning in ancient Roman times and continuing through the founding fathers conception of an independent nation. Wood shows the link between the Roman Empire and the idea that became the United States. “If any one cultural source lay behind the republican revolutions of the eighteenth century, it was ancient Rome---republican Rome----and the values that flowed from its history. It was ancient Rome’s legacy that helped to make the late eighteenth century’s apparently sudden transition to republicanism possible.” (59) Wood illuminates the founding...
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