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Story of American Freedom Paperback – Sep 7 1999
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Freedom, Eric Foner writes, is "the oldest of clichés and the most modern of aspirations." But what does it mean to be free? For the people of the United States, the concept of "freedom"--and its counterpart, "liberty"--have had widely differing meanings over the centuries. The Story of American Freedom, therefore, "is not a mythic saga with a predetermined beginning and conclusion, but an open-ended history of accomplishment and failure, a record of a people forever contending about the crucial ideas of their political culture."
Foner begins with the colonial era, when the Puritans believed that liberty was rooted in voluntary submission to God and civil authorities, and consisted only in the right to do good. John Locke, too, would argue that liberty did not consist of the lack of restraint, but of "a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power." Foner reveals the ideological conflicts that lay at the heart of the American Revolution and the Civil War, the shifts in thought about what freedom is and to whom it should apply. Adeptly charting the major trends of 20th-century American politics--including the invocation of freedom as a call to arms in both world wars--Foner concludes by contrasting the two prevalent movements of the 1990s: the liberal articulation of freedom, grounded in Johnson's Great Society and the rhetoric of the New Left, as the provision of civil rights and economic opportunity for all citizens, and the conservative vision, perhaps most fully realized during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, of a free-market economy and decentralized political power. The Story of American Freedom is a sweeping synthesis, delivered in clearheaded language that makes the ongoing nature of the American dream accessible to all readers. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Distinguished Columbia historian Foner frames American history as a continuing fight for freedom.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Foner shows that far from being a fixed concept, the story of freedom is an ever-changing one. In our nation's founding, freedom was only truly enjoyed by property-holding white males. The story ever since then has been the expansion of the meaning in two broad historical senses. One is the struggle of broad classes of people to gain freedom. The freeing of slaves is the most famous narrative in this sense, but it is only one of many. For example, before that was the broadening of the right for democratic participation to wage earners as well as property-holders
The other is the expansion of what freedom itself means. Foner is especially good at exploring this with respect to womens' movements to not only gain the right to vote, but also to exercise more control over their own bodies.
One star is deducted in this review for the last chapter, which shows the peril of historians writing "today's history." As other reviews have alluded, this is the most politicized part of the book. Foner's strong left bias shows a lttle too baldly. I say this as one who basically agrees with his politics.
Still, essential reading for anyone interested in who we are as a people.
Most recent customer reviews
As Americans we have a tendancy to think of this country as the birthplace of freedom and enlightenment, that is just came to us naturally from the very beginning. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2003 by Reviewer X
The idea of freedom in American history seems to have gone through a series of cycles and metamorphic changes to suit a variety of social, political, and economic changes. Read morePublished on March 16 2000 by Joe Brown
This is a bore to read, unless you're really, really into the stuff. His analysis is good, and well-organized, but he could use a more objective tone rather than analyze... Read morePublished on Nov. 22 1999
It is often remarked that America is not a class society--because we don't, as a nation, speak in the language of class. Read morePublished on Oct. 1 1999
I first became acquainted with Eric Foner through his masterful "Reconstruction," a book of history that illuminated modern problems and prospects through a detailed look... Read morePublished on June 15 1999
As a teacher of U.S history, I admire the insight and depth Foner takes in analyzing the evolving concept of freedom. Read morePublished on May 1 1999 by firstname.lastname@example.org