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He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, August 06, 2004


Ferling, John. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. Oxford, $30.

Choice: “the best single-volume narrative of the American Revolution available. General audiences will delight in the book’s readability and will be entranced b the author’s vivid descriptions…Professional historians will marvel at Ferling’s ability to clearly describe difficult concepts…His ability as a biographer and his eye for interesting detail and anecdote are among the best assets of this superb volume. Lay readers and experienced scholars can learn much about what the principals of the period thought, and what happened to them after the Revolution. Highly recommended.” Library Journal: “intriguing…This book should be purchased by all academic and most public libraries.” Booklist: “A scholarly but accessible work for large collections.” American Historical Review: “lively and engaging…One might expect an author who neglects social history in favor of politics to devote a great deal of space to the military conflict. But Ferling is not much more interested in battles than he is in women, slaves, and Indians…the bulk of Ferling’s arguments concern the 1790s…On issues where Ferling takes a stand, he sometimes neglects opposing viewpoints. Ferling has set himself a modest goal—to narrate the political history of the American Revolution with a slightly greater than usual emphasis on conflicts between elite and ordinary whites—and achieved it.” New Criterion: “for an author dedicated to undercutting the hagiography of the founding, Professor Ferling is rather devoted to a few myths of his own…This soft spot leads Ferling to place his thumb on the scale of history…As personalities, Ferling hardly does [the Federalists] justice…Astonishingly, Ferling’s treatment of the role of slavery in the formation of the constitution takes less than three pages, because, he suggests, slavery was not an issue to the Framers…” History: Review of New Books: “Ferling’s command of primary sources and secondary literature is impressive. Yet A Leap in the Dark is oddly disappointing. For a book on the Revolution stressing contingency, there is remarkably little written about the chances of war…The focus on American leaders causes Ferling to neglect French, Spanish, Native American, and British peers…Then too there are peculiar errors, such as the claim of a French ‘settlement’ at Albany in the sixteenth century. Another problem is an explicit but unexamined progressive assumption that ‘pecuniary considerations’ are the best explanation of ‘political behavior’…On the whole, this is not a bad book, but given the vast and excellent literature on the American revolution, it is hard to see why anyone should read this one in particular.” Journal of American History: “The Revolution rewrote the rules that governed the lives of Indians, free and enslaved black people, and white women as well. They deserve more than passing mention or, in the case of women, no mention at all."


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4:23 PM  

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