History is the queen of the humanities. It teaches wisdom and humility, and it tells us how things change through time.
During the Revolutionary era, American political theory underwent a fundamental transformation that carried the nation out of a basically classical and medieval world of political discussion into a milieu that was recognizably modern. This classic work is essentially a study of that transformation. The author describes in rich detail the evolution of political thought from the Declaration of Independence to the ratification of the Constitution and in doing so, illuminates the origins of the present American political system.
Historians have often based their analyses of the new nation on the assumption that at any given time the Founding Fathers knew what they wanted and expressed their desires in terms fully understood. Wood explains that this was not the case. Instead, he shows us men groping their way to the establishment of a new political and social organization that has proved remarkably enduring. What representative government and democratic ideas actually meant to the founders becomes startlingly clear as Wood discusses the meaning of republicanism for the Revolutionaries, explains why republicanism was a revolutionary ideology, and analyzes the process by which the classical idea of democracy was converted into a modern one. He also shows the relationship between Revolutionary radicalism and the conservative forces involved in the formation of the federal Constitution.
The Americans of the Revolutionary generation made a momentous contribution to the history of politics, for they demonstrated to the world that a people could diagnose the ills of their society and work out a process for peacefully solving them. They adapted the tenets of political theory that men had held for centuries to the framework of a new, distinctively American republican polity.
Gordon Wood received his Ph.D. in History from Harvard, where he studied under Bernard Bailyn, in 1964. He has taught at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Cambridge University, and Brown University, where he is Professor of History Emeritus. He is also a recipient of a 2010 National Humanities Medal. Wood is one of the most influential historians of the twentieth century and his work is considered essential to the study of early America. The Creation of the American Republic won a Bancroft Prize in 1970.