The Intellectual Construction of America: Exceptionalism and Identity From 1492 to 1800

The Intellectual Construction of America: Exceptionalism and Identity From 1492 to 1800

by Jack P. Greene
     
 

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Jack Greene explores the changing definitions of America from the time of Europe's first contact with the New World through the establishment of the American republic. Challenging historians who have argued that colonial American societies differed little from those of early modern Europe, he shows that virtually all contemporary observers emphasized the

Overview

Jack Greene explores the changing definitions of America from the time of Europe's first contact with the New World through the establishment of the American republic. Challenging historians who have argued that colonial American societies differed little from those of early modern Europe, he shows that virtually all contemporary observers emphasized the distinctiveness of the new worlds being created in America. Rarely considering the high costs paid by Amerindians and Africans in the construction of those worlds, they cited the British North American colonies as evidence that America was for free people a place of exceptional opportunities for individual betterment and was therefore fundamentally different from the Old World. Greene suggests that this concept of American societies as exceptional was a central component in their emerging identity. The success of the American Revolution helped subordinate Americans' long-standing sense of cultural inferiority to a more positive sense of collective self that sharpened and intensified the concept of American exceptionalism.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Though historians argue that the colonial settlements in North America differed little from those of contemporary Europeans, says Greene (humanities, Johns Hopkins U.), the settlers themselves consistently emphasized the distinctiveness of America. Their view of the new land was generally affirmative, but they felt culturally inferior to Europe. He also shows how this attitude required dehumanizing both native Americans and Africans. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
[An] exceptional book.

Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism

This book will compel scholars to rethink the issue of exceptionalism and likely will give the idea new life.

Richard L. Bushman, Columbia University

[Reminds] us of the ways in which contemporaries identified America as an exceptional place promising opportunity unattainable [in Europe].

Journal of Southern History

This beautifully produced volume is topical, readable and provocative.

American Studies

This is a beautifully presented work, with well-chosen illustrations that are contemporary to the points being made in the text.

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807861776
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
11/09/2000
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
228
File size:
7 MB

Meet the Author

Jack P. Greene is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at The Johns Hopkins University. He is author of several books, including Pursuits of Happiness: The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture.

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