Empire of Liberty

A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815


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 American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812.As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life--in politics, society, economy, and culture. The men who founded the new government had high hopes for the future, but few of their hopes and dreams worked out quite as they expected. They hated political parties but parties nonetheless emerged. Some wanted the United States to become a great fiscal-military state like those of Britain and France; others wanted the country to remain a rural agricultural state very different from the European states. Instead, by 1815 the United States became something neither group anticipated. Many leaders expected American culture to flourish and surpass that of Europe; instead it became popularized and vulgarized. The leaders also hope to see the end of slavery; instead, despite the release of many slaves and the end of slavery in the North, slavery was stronger in 1815 than it had been in 1789. Many wanted to avoid entanglements with Europe, but instead the country became involved in Europe's wars and ended up waging another war with the former mother country. Still, with a new generation emerging by 1815, most Americans were confident and optimistic about the future of their country.Named a New York Times Notable Book, Empire of Liberty offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.
  • Oxford University Press; October 2009
  • ISBN 9780199738335
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Empire of Liberty
  • Author: Gordon S. Wood
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

A Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for History
A New York Times Bestseller
"Told with enormous insight ... On every page of this book, Wood's subtlety and erudition show. Grand in scope and a landmark achievement of scholarship, Empire of Liberty is a tour de force, the culmination of a lifetime of brilliant thinking and writing."--The New York Times Book Review
"Empire of Liberty will rightly take its place among the authoritative volumes in this important and influential series."--The Washington Post
"In illuminating the theoretical underpinnings of the long 1960s era, Wood provides an excellent contribution to present understandings of how late twentieth century convictions fundamentally emerged to shape our modern world." --UCLA Historical Review
"A bold, intelligent, and thoroughly engaging interpretation of the period from the birth of the republic to the emergence of a mass democratic society in the early part of the 19th century... Gordon Wood has written an immensely important book that deserves a wide readership among scholars and anyone interested in American history. The book will certainly influence how future historians write about the triumphs and tragedies of the early republic."--The Providence Journal-Bulletin
"Deftly written and lucidly argued, it teems with insights and arguments that make us look at familiar topics in fresh ways.--The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Wood's contribution will stand both as an extraordinary achievement of historical synthesis, and as witness to its own time. It will not soon be surpassed"--The Weekly Standard
Selected as one of 'The Top 25 Books of 2009'--The Atlantic
Selected as one of 'The Most Notable Books of 2009'--The New York Times Book Review
"This work by the dean of Federalist scholars, and the newest title in the splendid Oxford History of the United States, has been widely hailed as the definitive history of the era."--American Heritage Magazine
"Gordon S. Wood's penetrating histor of the early American Republic, is one of the best and certainly most rewarding books of the year. It is a winter's read for the serious general reader who may read only one book in a lifetime of this period. This is that book."--The Dallas Morning News
"Wood's erudition is legendary, and in this authoritative history of the early United States, he has produced a classic. Deftly written and lucidly argues, it teems with insights that coax us to see the nation's beginnings in a new way."Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Wood has traced the main political stories of the new American nation with...commanding skill and...interpretive wisdom." --Christianity Today
"Magisterial...Gordon Wood is...equally adept at the large canvas and thumbnail sketch."--The National Interest
"Wood's grasp on the story is sure, his narration often thrilling, which are the two elements of excellent history."--Catholic Library World
"Wood has provided a readable, engaging, and incisive account of the sociopolitical history of the first decades of the American nation." --Maryland Historical Magazine
"[Wood's] exuberant panorama of a dynamic nation in the midst of dramatic change is informed by his immense scholarship and deep insights not only into the meaning of the American Revolution but also into American character, values, myths, leadership, and institutions." --Susan Dunn, New York Review of Books
"Wood's prose is filled with gems of wit and wisdom that make reading this large tome a delight...Empire of Liberty...is an articulate, deeply researched, reasoned account of the emergence of the young republic from independence to nationhood; from an Atlantic-focused intellectual and commercial emphasis toward territorial expansion and continental orientation; from deferential social and political norms into the most egalitarian social, economic, and political nation on the globe. Gordon Wood has done it again!" -David Curtis Skaggs, Northwest Ohio History

About The Author

Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. His books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the Bancroft Prize-winning The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, and The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. He writes frequently for The New York Review of Books and The New Republic.