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A terrific entrée to Henry Adams' 9 volume history of the US during the administrations of Jefferson and Madison 1800-1817. The first half of the book shows the development of Adams as an historian, while the second half summarizes the History volume by volume with ample quotes to illustrate Adams' style. While most readers are familiar with the Education of Henry Adams, few have taken on the onerous challenge of the History, perhaps because of its size, perhaps out of fear that it will be a ponderous tome. Wills book offers the opportunity to meet Adams, the man, and to sample his "prose masterpiece," described by Wills as "the best writing he ever did." After reading this teaser you just may find yourself eager to tackle the original. I did!
Publishers Weekly, 2005-07-18 Wills nimbly dusts off the nine volumes of Henry Adams's little-studied history of the United States from 1800 to 1817 and proclaims it to be both "a prose masterpiece" and a model for how to research and write history. Adams, he insists, helped to revolutionize the study of history by conducting actual archival research, not just in U.S. repositories but abroad, in London, Paris and Madrid. And at a time when provincial history was the norm, Adams adopted a broad international scope, placing the fledgling nation on the broad canvas of the Napoleonic Wars. Wills has little time for scholars who have dismissed the History as pessimistic or defensive of Adams's ancestors ("Can these people not read?" Wills cries). In contrast, Wills finds Adams's work to be optimistic about the much-needed nationalization that occurred in this period, even though it took the ill-conceived and disastrous War of 1812 to get there. He also notes that Adams could be harshly critical of his own presidential ancestors, particularly John Quincy, in favor of the bold accomplishments of Jefferson and, to a lesser extent, Madison. In all, Adams's history traces "how a nation stagnating at the end of Federalist rule shook itself awake and struck off boldly in new directions." With its revisionist stance, felicitous prose and compelling argument, Wills's book charts new directions as well. (Sept. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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