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Fred Anderson[It] must also command the respect of all scholars who seek to understand the origins of American culture and identity.
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
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Joyce Appleby deals with two themes in this book: the historical experience of the generation after the American Revolution and conflicts within American identity. The result is Whitmanesque, both in its complex but coherent vision and in its elegant expression.
— Edward Countryman
[A] fascinating study of how citizens of the newly constituted form of government seized the opportunities their break with the Old World offered them.
— Ralph Hollenbeck
[Appleby] examines in exhaustive (but not exhausting) detail how "the first generation of Americans" reshaped virtually every aspect of American society. Commerce, religion, domestic life, personal behavior. They left nothing untouched, operating under the assumption that their "Revolutionary heritage" was nothing less than "a call to innovation, enterprise, reform and progress"
— Michael D. Schaffer
[Appleby] gives us an extended meditation on what happened to American society during the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Revolution...Her fine, well-informed intelligence plays across this vast sea of biographical information and recreates the world her subjects inhabited...Everything is made fresh in these pages. The combination of out-of-the-way stories unearthed from the autobiographies and Appleby's own ingenuity and insight puts the familiar in a new light.
— Richard Lyman Bushman
In her rich new book...[Appleby] argues that the first generation of Americans...experienced a degree of political and social change unrivalled before or since...This first generation reached a kind of closure about the meaning of democracy that has made it difficult for succeeding generations to articulate a vision of America other than the one they created: a society devoted to individualism and free enterprise...What emerges is a striking tale, on its face one of the most celebratory accounts of American gumption in recent historiography.
— Marc Arkin
Appleby documents, in precise and persuasive detail, the evolution and elaboration of assumptions about what it is to be an American that we now take completely for granted. What we think of as the "natural phenomenon" of individualism, for example, she describes as first appearing in the "prototype for the self-made man," who eventually evolved into "a new character ideal...the man who developed inner resources, acted independently, lived virtuously, and bent his behavior to his personal goals—not the American Adam, but the American homo faber, the builder."
— Jonathan Yardley
Joyce Appleby...has created a collective portrait of the generation of men and women born in the United States between 1776 and 1800, and on the basis of their lives and values ventures an answer to Crevecoeur's query that is intriguing, sophisticated and anything but exceptionalist. Anyone curious about how Americans came to understand themselves as a people would do well to read this book. Appleby maintains that Americans first defined their national identity by infusing meaning into the Revolution to which they were heirs...Inheriting the Revolution must also command the respect of all scholars who seek to understand the origins of American culture and identity.
— Fred Anderson
Inheriting the Revolution is a welcome addition to the now-rich literature on the early American republic. Informed by Joyce Appleby's deep knowledge of the period's politics and political ideology, it portrays a society in a fresh stage of development, and a people defining themselves in the context not just of a new nationhood, but of the material and geographical circumstances the American Revolution created. No one concerned with the early United States or the longer trajectory of US development should ignore this book.
— Christopher Clark
The life histories are indeed a rich source, providing Appleby with the parade of arresting stories and anecdotes that grace her text
Joyce Appleby has accomplished the very difficult task of demonstrating ways in which men and women, simply by living and striving in what was for them a free environment, created the connection among revolutionary liberty, individual self-improvement, and national growth that became a powerful version of American-ness in the nineteenth century.
— Paul E. Johnson
In this sweeping and gracefully-written interpretation of the Republic's early decades, Joyce Appleby examines the aspirations and achievements of Americans who came of age between roughly 1790 and 1830
Appleby is sensitive to differences in race and gender, and she incorporates both African Americans and white women into her larger analysis of the period. Indeed, because she often uses stories of individual lives to illustrate general social and cultural trends, this book includes some fascinating vignettes of self-made women and men.
— Cynthia A. Kierner
The result is an empirically grounded yet extraordinarily dynamic foray into the multivalent experience of America's first nation-builders
Appleby has nonetheless written a brilliant page-turner, filled with insights, and truly a feast of period detail for general history readers
Appleby has successfully taken on one of the most difficult tasks for early American historians: discovering the origins of American national identity in the welter of social and cultural forces shaping the new republic, while mindful of the civil calamity between North and South lying ahead.
— Dee E. Andrews
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