Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas / Edition 1

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Liberty and freedom: Americans agree that these values are fundamental to our nation, but what do they mean? How have their meanings changed through time? In this new volume of cultural history, David Hackett Fischer shows how these varying ideas form an intertwined strand that runs through the core of American life.
Fischer examines liberty and freedom not as philosophical or political abstractions, but as folkways and popular beliefs deeply embedded in American culture. Tocqueville called them "habits of the heart." From the earliest colonies, Americans have shared ideals of liberty and freedom, but with very different meanings. Like DNA these ideas have transformed and recombined in each generation.
The book arose from Fischer's discovery that the words themselves had differing origins: the Latinate "liberty" implied separation and independence. The root meaning of "freedom" (akin to "friend") connoted attachment: the rights of belonging in a community of freepeople. The tension between the two senses has been a source of conflict and creativity throughout American history.
Liberty & Freedom studies the folk history of those ideas through more than 400 visions, images, and symbols. It begins with the American Revolution, and explores the meaning of New England's Liberty Tree, Pennsylvania's Liberty Bells, Carolina's Liberty Crescent, and "Don't Tread on Me" rattlesnakes. In the new republic, the search for a common American symbol gave new meaning to Yankee Doodle, Uncle Sam, Miss Liberty, and many other icons. In the Civil War, Americans divided over liberty and freedom. Afterward, new universal visions were invented by people who had formerly been excluded from a free society—African Americans, American Indians, and immigrants. The twentieth century saw liberty and freedom tested by enemies and contested at home, yet it brought the greatest outpouring of new visions, from Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms to Martin Luther King's "dream" to Janis Joplin's "nothin' left to lose."
Illustrated in full color with a rich variety of images, Liberty and Freedom is, literally, an eye-opening work of history—stimulating, large-spirited, and ultimately, inspiring.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
David Hackett Fischer, the author of Washington's Crossing and Paul Revere's Ride, has written a penetrating history of America's founding ideals and how they have been understood from Colonial times to the present. Fischer, one of the most respected historians, uses visual images to demonstrate the different and sometimes opposing implications of "freedom" and "liberty." Instead of an abstract examination of arid concepts, he has produced a rich, stimulating book about ideas that still guide us.
From the Publisher
"Liberty and Freedom is a lavishly illustrated, well-written survey of American cutlrual history that is a deliht to read. It bears the hallmarks of David Hackett-Fischer's scholarship. It is provocative, learned and well-argued."—Frank Cogliano, History

"Endlessly entertaining. It offers the author a chance to fact-check and retell some of the great stories of American history (Francis Scott Key and 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' Betsy Ross and the flag) and dredge up icons that have been sadly forgotten.... There are hundreds of fascinating strands in this volume, each of them worth tugging at."—Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Book World

"Impressive.... A richly illustrated study of both American ideals as they developed through such visual symbols as Yankee Doodle and Uncle Sam."—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Liberty and Freedom seeks to combine the 'new' history with the 'old,' using the habits and customs of ordinary people to illuminate the actions and ideas of political leaders.... Fischer declares that the creative tension between the two concepts has given English-speaking people 'a distinctive dynamism in their thoughts about liberty and freedom.'"—New York Times Book Review

"A staggering achievement, learned and erudite in the best sense of the words. It is chock full of engaging anecdotes and rich narrative material. Fischer has conceptualized the whole history and issue of 'liberty and freedom' in a very creative and thoughtful way."—Michael Kammen, Cornell University, author of Life in the Past Lane and Mystic Chords of Memory

"An important and thought-provoking synthesis of historical analysis and cultural commentary that is accessible to lay readers.... Using many black-and-white and color illustrations, historian Fischer recounts fascinating true stories and creative legends, demonstrating how images and symbols in American history (e.g., 'Stars and Stripes,' the Liberty Bell, the American Eagle) reflect varying meanings of these two ideas."—Library Journal

"Liberty and freedom are America's most priceless heritage, which we have tried to export to other peoples. But what do these words mean? Are they interchangeable? Has their meaning changed over time? David Hackett Fischer sets out to answer these questions in this eloquent, scintillating book, beautifully illustrated with hundreds of images that have functioned as icons of liberty and freedom." —James M. McPherson, Princeton University, author of Crossroads of Freedom and Battle Cry of Freedom

"One of those books that belongs in every serious library of American history."—Books-on-line

"This oversize, beautifully illustrated book shifts subtly from a rich graphic survey, incorporating painting, flags and sculpture, to a broader chronicle of the many ways Americans have articulated their most cherished ideals."—Publishers Weekly

"The more than 400 images add to the historical narratives and stories that examine ideals of freedom from our idealized periods through our more controversial eras, including the Civil War, civil rights, and the anti-Vietnam War movement. The story format makes his book particularly approachable as Fischer offers enormous breadth and depth of exploration of this theme that has defined much of American culture and politics."—Booklist

"Explores the ideas of liberty and freedom through the ways they've been expressed in words, but more significantly, in flags, paintings, campaign paraphernalia, and other visual mediums.... 'Liberty and Freedom' goes beyond historical investigation into political analysis. And while rattlesnake flags and B-29 pinups might seem slender props for such analysis, the fact that there's been a consistent use of certain symbols from the eve of the Revolution to the present suggests that Fischer's discussion is firmly grounded."—Boston Globe

Philip Kennicott
[Fischer] calls the books in this series "braided narratives," and while there are times when the braid is very loose, there are hundreds of fascinating strands in this volume, each of them worth tugging at.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
English-speaking people have distinct words for the concepts of freedom and liberty. But that doesn't mean everyone agrees on what they mean, as Fischer (author of the bestselling Washington's Crossing) reveals in this exhaustive study of how the two have been defined in words and images from colonial times to the present. Short chapters supply the backstories of familiar symbols like the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, and also reintroduce forgotten figures like Brother Jonathan, an early 19th-century representation of America as a country bumpkin that was popular in Europe. In a precursor to today's "salad bowl" image of cultural diversity, artists of the Revolutionary era portrayed America as "a flight of birds, a flock of sheep, even a kettle of fish." As the modern age approaches, photography becomes increasingly important, as seen in a triptych of riveting images from the Civil Rights movement. But the record also becomes somewhat muddled, Fischer finds, with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix appearing as images on nearly equal footing with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. In the end, the oversize, beautifully illustrated book shifts subtly from a rich graphic survey, incorporating painting, flags and sculpture, to a broader chronicle of the many ways Americans have articulated their most cherished ideals. Over 400 illus., 250 in color. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The third in a four-volume series, this wide-ranging study exhaustively examines the concepts of "liberty" and "freedom" in American history as cultural realities rather than just political ideas. Using many black-and-white and color illustrations, historian Fischer (Washington's Crossing; Paul Revere's Ride) recounts fascinating true stories and creative legends, demonstrating how images and symbols in American history (e.g., "Stars and Stripes," the Liberty Bell, the American Eagle) reflect varying meanings of these two ideas. The author traces the similarities and differences between the two words as they evolved from ancient Greece and Rome to contemporary America. Fischer states that liberty implied freedom from restraint and unboundedness, while freedom assumed connectedness to a family, tribe, or nation; liberty therefore implied separation, while freedom implied attachment. Fischer roams through American history, looking equally at ephemeral micro events (e.g., Victoria Woodhull's post-Civil War Free Love Movement) and at groundbreaking historical happenings (e.g., the Civil Rights and Women's Liberation Movements). At times, there isn't adequate transition between the many topics he analyzes, but this is an important and thought-provoking synthesis of historical analysis and cultural commentary that is accessible to lay readers. For most academic libraries and large public libraries.-Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195162530
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/18/2004
  • Series: America: a cultural history Series, #3
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 864
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Hackett Fischer

David Hackett Fischer is University Professor at Brandeis, and author of the New York Times bestseller Washington's Crossing as well as Bound Away, The Great Wave, and Paul Revere's Ride. This volume is a successor to his acclaimed Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America.


A professor at Brandeis University, David Hackett Fischer is the author of several noted books on history, including Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, The Great Wave: Price Movements in Modern History, Paul Revere's Ride, and Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. He is co-editor, with James M. McPherson, of the Pivotal Moments in American History series published by Oxford University Press. A graduate of Princeton and Johns Hopkins Universities, he divides his time between homes in Massachusetts and Maine.

Author biography courtesy of Oxford University Press.

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    1. Hometown:
      Wayland, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Education:
      A.B., Princeton University, 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1962

Table of Contents

Introduction : a conversation with Captain Preston 1
Early America : visions of the founders, 1607-1775 17
A republic united : the serach for a common vision, 1776-1840 119
A nation divided : freedom against liberty, 1840-1912 247
A world at war : a free society and its enemies, 1916-1945 419
A people among others : global visions of liberty and freedom, 1945-2004 559
Conclusion : the view from Tocqueville's terrace 714
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