American Heroes: Profiles of Men and Women Who Shaped Early Americaby Edmund S. Morgan
"A wise, humane and beautifully written book." Bret Stephens, Wall Street JournalFrom the best-selling author of Benjamin Franklin comes this remarkable work that will help redefine our notion of American heroism. Americans have long been obsessed with their heroes, but the men and women dramatically portrayed here are not celebrated for the typical banal reasons contained in Founding Fathers hagiography. Effortlessly challenging those who persist in revering the American history status quo and its tropes and falsehoods, Morgan, now ninety-three, continues to believe that the past is just not the way it seems.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
Edmund S. Morgan (1916–2013) was the Sterling Professor Emeritus at Yale University and the recipient of the National Humanities Medal, the Pulitzer Prize, and the American Academy’s Gold Medal. The author of The Genuine Article; American Slavery, American Freedom; Benjamin Franklin; and American Heroes, among many others.
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This book is outstanding. Like all of Morgan's writing, this is proof positive that often less is more. The key to Morgan's writing is its efficiency. Unlike so many in contemporary academia, who are flat-out guilty of shameful self-indulgent over-writing (not to mention often doing so incoherently), Morgan's works are cogent. The flow of his narrative is nothing short of superb. These essays largely stick to what Morgan does best: Provide a structural analysis of an area of historical inquiry, pick out the main two or three themes, and stay keenly focused on them. His writing should be mandatory reading for all college students, not just for its content, but as a modicum of how to write clearly and effectively.
Is it possible to give a book fewer than one star? If so, I would nominate this book for that score. The book has many serious problems. First, it is marketed as though it were an original piece of work. In fact, it is merely a collection of essays that the author wrote for various historical publications over the past many decades. (A small number are listed as "not previously published", which , considering the poor quality, likely means that no publication would accept them). Second, the essays are symptomatic of the worst sort of political correctness. In them, we learn that American Indians were better Christians than the Christians themselves, and that the only true patriots were those opposed to the cause. We also learn the shocking fact that libraries are good! My, that was worth the cost of the book, wasn't it? Finally, the writing is poor and the author's arguments are facile. To cite just one example, he finds it inexplicable that settlers would have disapproved of the Indians' idleness, claiming that their "non-materialism" was in fact the highest Christian virtue. Perhaps he is unacquainted with the Seven Deadly Sins, one of which is sloth. And this is a Princeton professor? I shudder for his students.