Gordon S. Wood

Gordon Stewart Wood (born November 27, 1933) is the Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University, and the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992). His book The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (1969) won a 1970 Bancroft Prize. In 2010, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

Gordon S. Wood
Gordon Wood historian 2006
Wood in 2006
Gordon Stewart Wood[1]

November 27, 1933 (age 85)
Alma materHarvard University (A.M., PhD)
Tufts University (B.A.)
ChildrenChristopher Wood, Elizabeth, Amy
AwardsPulitzer Prize (1993)
Bancroft Prize (1970)
National Humanities Medal (2010)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCollege of William and Mary
Harvard University
University of Michigan
Brown University
Cambridge University
Northwestern University School of Law
Doctoral advisorBernard Bailyn

Early life and education

Wood was born in Concord, Massachusetts, and grew up in Worcester and Waltham. He graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University in 1955 and has served as a trustee there. After serving in the U.S. Air Force in Japan, during which time he earned an A.M. at Harvard University, he entered the Ph.D. program in history at Harvard, where he studied under Bernard Bailyn, receiving his Ph.D. in 1964.


Wood has taught at Harvard, the College of William and Mary, the University of Michigan, Brown University, and in 1982–83 was Pitt Professor at Cambridge University.

In addition to his books (listed below), Wood has written numerous influential articles, notably "Rhetoric and Reality in the American Revolution" (1966), "Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style: Causality and Deceit in the Eighteenth century" (1982), and "Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution" (1987). He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Republic.

A recent project was the third volume of the Oxford History of the United StatesEmpire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009) – a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In popular culture

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich publicly and effusively praised Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992), erroneously calling it The Founding of America. Wood, who met Gingrich once in 1994, surmised that Gingrich may have approved because the book "had a kind of Toquevillian touch to it, I guess, maybe suggesting American exceptionalism, that he liked". He jokingly described Gingrich's praise in an interview on C-SPAN in 2002 as "the kiss of death for me among a lot of academics, who are not right-wing Republicans."[2]

In one of the celebrated scenes of the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon's title character gets into a battle of wits with a student from Harvard University, whom he accuses of uncritically parroting the views of the authors on his reading list as a first-year graduate student. He goes on to predict that a little later in his curriculum, he would simply be "regurgitating Gordon Wood." The student begins to respond with a critique of Wood, which Hunting interrupts, completes, and incorrectly claims to be a passage plagiarized from page 98 of Daniel Vickers' Work in Essex County.[3][4]

In "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" S5 E12, Charlie (the janitor of Paddy's Pub owned by him and his friends) references Gordon Wood at a college party, trying to replicate the success of Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting". He has little success since he has no idea who or what Gordon Wood or his work is - embarrassingly assuming he will be able to pull off the same argument as he is a janitor like Matt Damon's character.

Personal life

Wood married the former Louise Goss on April 30, 1956. They have three children: Christopher, Elizabeth and Amy.[1] Their son, Christopher Wood, is a professor of German at New York University and their daughter, Amy, is a professor of history at Illinois State University, and Elizabeth is an administrator at Milton Academy.


  • The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1969, 1998. (ISBN 978-0807847237)
  • (Editor) Representation in the American Revolution, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1969. (ISBN 978-0813927220)
  • (Editor) The Rising Glory of America, 1760–1820, George Braziller (New York), 1971, revised edition, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1990. (ISBN 978-1555530907)
  • (Editor) The Confederation and the Constitution, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1973.
  • Revolution and the Political Integration of the Enslaved and Disenfranchised, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (Washington, DC), 1974. (ISBN 978-0844713045)
  • (Contributor) Leadership in the American Revolution, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1974.
  • (With J.R. Pole) Social Radicalism and the Idea of Equality in the American Revolution, University of St. Thomas (Houston, TX), 1976.
  • (With others) The Great Republic, Little, Brown (Boston), 1977, 4th edition, Heath (Lexington, MA), 1992.
  • The Making of the Constitution, Baylor University Press (Waco, TX), 1987. (ISBN 978-0918954541)
  • (Editor) Rising Glory of America, 1760–1820, Northeastern University Press (Boston), 1990.
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Alfred A. Knopf (New York), 1992. (ISBN 978-0679736882)
  • (Editor, with Louise G. Wood) Russian-American Dialogue on the American Revolution, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1995.
  • (Editor, with Paul A. Gilje et al.) Wages of Independence: Capitalism in the Early American Republic, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997. (ISBN 978-0945612520)
  • (Editor, with Anthony Molho) Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1998. (ISBN 978-0691058115)
  • Monarchism and Republicanism in the Early United States, La Trobe University (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2000.
  • The American Revolution: A History, Modern Library (New York), 2001. (ISBN 978-0812970418)
  • The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, Penguin Press (New York), 2004. (ISBN 978-0143035282)
  • Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, Penguin Press (New York), 2006. (ISBN 978-0143112082)
  • The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History, Penguin Press (New York), 2008. (ISBN 978-0143115045)
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815, Oxford University Press (New York), 2010. (ISBN 978-0199832460)
  • The Idea of America. Reflections on the Birth of the United States. Penguin Press, New York City, 2011. (ISBN 978-0143121244)
  • (Editor) John Adams: Revolutionary Writings 1755–1783 (2 vols.), The Library of America (New York), 2011. (ISBN 978-1598530902)
  • (Editor) The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1764–1776 (2 vols.), The Library of America (New York), 2015.
  • (Editor) John Adams: Writings from the New Nation 1784–1826, The Library of America (New York), 2016. (ISBN 978-1598534665)
  • Book contributions
    • Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture, edited by Peter Onuf and Jan Lewis, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1999
    • To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidency, edited by James M. McPherson, Society of American Historians (New York), 2000.
  • Contributor of articles to academic journals:
  • Contributor of book reviews to periodicals, including


  1. ^ a b c Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2010. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2010. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC. Document Number: H1000107915. Retrieved 2010-06-22
  2. ^ National Cable Satellite Corporation (April 21, 2002). "Booknotes". Transcript of an interview with Wood by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN's Booknotes. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  3. ^ Vickers, Daniel (1994). Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850. Williamsburg, Virginia: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture; University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0807844588.
  4. ^ "Good Will Hunting Script at IMSDb". The Internet Movie Script Database. The Internet Movie Script Database. Retrieved 8 January 2019.

External links

Benjamin Franklin Bache (journalist)

Benjamin Franklin Bache (August 12, 1769 – September 10, 1798) was an American journalist, printer and publisher. He founded the Philadelphia Aurora, a newspaper that supported Jeffersonian philosophy. He frequently attacked the Federalist political leaders, including Presidents George Washington and John Adams, and historian Gordon S. Wood wrote that "no editor did more to politicize the press in the 1790s." His paper's heated attacks are thought to have contributed to passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts by the 5th United States Congress and signed by President John Adams in 1798.

The grandson of Benjamin Franklin, Bache was often referred to as "Lightning Rod Junior" after his famous grandfather's experiment. The son of Sarah Franklin and Richard Bache, he died at 29 in the yellow fever epidemic of 1798.

Bernard Bailyn

Bernard Bailyn (born September 9, 1922) is an American historian, author, and academic specializing in U.S. Colonial and Revolutionary-era History. He has been a professor at Harvard University since 1953. Bailyn has won the Pulitzer Prize for History twice (in 1968 and 1987). In 1998 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected him for the Jefferson Lecture. He was a recipient of the 2010 National Humanities Medal. He is married to MIT Professor of Management Lotte Bailyn (née Lotte Lazarsfeld) and is the father of Yale astrophysicist Charles Bailyn and Stony Brook Linguist John Bailyn.

He has specialized in American colonial and revolutionary-era history, looking at merchants, demographic trends, Loyalists, international links across the Atlantic, and especially the political ideas that motivated the Patriots. He is best known for studies of republicanism and Atlantic history that transformed the scholarship in those fields. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963.

Classical republicanism

Classical republicanism, also known as civic republicanism or civic humanism, is a form of republicanism developed in the Renaissance inspired by the governmental forms and writings of classical antiquity, especially such classical writers as Aristotle, Polybius, and Cicero. Classical republicanism is built around concepts such as civil society, civic virtue and mixed government.

Committees of safety (American Revolution)

In the American Revolution, the committees of correspondence, committees of inspection (also known as committees of observation), and committees of safety were different local committees of Patriots that became a shadow government; they took control of the Thirteen Colonies away from royal officials, who became increasingly helpless.In Massachusetts, as affairs drew toward a crisis, it became usual for towns to appoint three committees: of correspondence, of inspection, and of safety. The first was to keep the community informed of dangers either legislative or executive, and concert measures of public good; the second to watch for violations of non-importation agreements, or attempts of loyalists to evade them; the third to act as general executive while the legal authority was in abeyance. In February 1776 these were regularly legalized by the Massachusetts General Court but consolidated into one called the "Committee of Correspondence, Inspection, and Safety" to be elected annually by the towns.

Common Sense (pamphlet)

Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–76 advocating independence from Great Britain to people in the Thirteen Colonies. Writing in clear and persuasive prose, Paine marshaled moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the Colonies to fight for egalitarian government. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, at the beginning of the American Revolution, and became an immediate sensation.

It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title, and is still in print today.Common Sense made public a persuasive and impassioned case for independence, which before the pamphlet had not yet been given serious intellectual consideration. Paine connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity, structuring Common Sense as if it were a sermon. Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era".The text was translated into French by Antoine Gilbert Griffet de Labaume in 1790.


Constitutionalism is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law".Political organizations are constitutional to the extent that they "contain institutionalized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and liberties of the citizenry, including those that may be in the minority". As described by political scientist and constitutional scholar David Fellman:

Constitutionalism is descriptive of a complicated concept, deeply embedded in historical experience, which subjects the officials who exercise governmental powers to the limitations of a higher law. Constitutionalism proclaims the desirability of the rule of law as opposed to rule by the arbitrary judgment or mere fiat of public officials ... Throughout the literature dealing with modern public law and the foundations of statecraft the central element of the concept of constitutionalism is that in political society government officials are not free to do anything they please in any manner they choose; they are bound to observe both the limitations on power and the procedures which are set out in the supreme, constitutional law of the community. It may therefore be said that the touchstone of constitutionalism is the concept of limited government under a higher law.

George Athan Billias

George Athan Billias (June 26, 1919 – August 16, 2018) was an American historian.

Gordon Wood

Gordon Wood may refer to:

Gordon S. Wood (born 1933), American historian

Gordon Wood (American football coach) (1914–2003), high school football coach in Texas

Gordon Eric Wood, Australian jailed then acquitted of the murder of Caroline Byrne

Gordon Wood (rugby union) (1931–1982), rugby union footballer


Liberty! The American Revolution is a six-hour documentary miniseries about the Revolutionary War, and the instigating factors, that brought about the United States' independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. It was first broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System in 1997.

The series consists of six hour-long episodes. Each episode is introduced by Forrest Sawyer and narrated by Edward Herrmann. Period photographs and location filming are intercut with stage and screen actors in appropriate period costume reading as figures of the time, including Campbell Scott (Thomas Jefferson), Philip Bosco (Benjamin Franklin), Victor Garber (John Dickinson), Alex Jennings (King George III), Roger Rees (Thomas Paine), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Joseph Plumb Martin), Terrence Mann (Gen. John Burgoyne), Colm Feore (Alexander Hamilton), Sebastian Roché (The Marquis de Lafayette), Donna Murphy (Abigail Adams), Austin Pendleton (Benjamin Rush) and Peter Donaldson (John Adams). Stephen Lang read the words of George Washington, but is not seen on camera.

British and American historians and authors, including Carol Berkin, Bernard Bailyn, Ron Hoffman, Claude-Anne Lopez, Pauline Maier, George C. Neumann, Richard Norton Smith, Gordon S. Wood (U.S.) and Jeremy Black, Colin Bonwick, John Keegan, and N.A.M. Rodger (U.K.) add historical background, explaining life and society of the time while interpreting events from the perspectives of the two sides of the conflict. Historical perspectives also include the status of black slaves and freemen, the participation of American Indians, and the strivings of American women as events progress.

Library of America

The Library of America (LOA) is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature. Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LOA has published over 300 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip Roth, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Saul Bellow, including the selected writings of several U.S. presidents.

Massachusetts Circular Letter

The Massachusetts Circular Letter was a statement written by Samuel Adams and James Otis Jr., and passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives (as constituted in the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, not the current constitution) in February 1768 in response to the Townshend Acts. Reactions to the letter brought heightened tensions between the British Parliament and Massachusetts, and resulted in the military occupation of Boston by the British Army, which contributed to the coming of the American Revolution.

Modern Library Chronicles

The Modern Library Chronicles are a series of short books published by the American publisher, Modern Library. Most of the books are under 150 pages in length and intended to introduce readers to a period of history.A partial list includes:

The Renaissance, by Paul Johnson

Islam, by Karen Armstrong

The Balkans, by Mark Mazower

The German Empire: 1870-1918, by Michael Stürmer

The Catholic Church, by Hans Küng

Peoples and Empires, by Anthony Pagden

Communism, by Richard Pipes

Hitler and the Holocaust, by Robert S. Wistrich

The American Revolution, by Gordon S. Wood

Law in America, by Lawrence Friedman

Inventing Japan: 1853-1964, by Ian Buruma

The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

The Americas: A Hemispheric History, by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

The Boys' Crusade, by Paul Fussell

The Age of Shakespeare, by Frank Kermode

The Age of Napoleon, by Alistair Horne

Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, by Edward J. Larson

London: A History, by A.N. Wilson

The Reformation: A History, by Patrick Collinson

Nazism and War, by Richard Bessel

The City, by Joel Kotkin

Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics, by David Berlinski

California: A History, by Kevin Starr

Storm from the East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and the Christian West, by Milton Viorst

Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game, by George Vecsey

Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky

The Hellenistic Age: A Short History, by Peter Green

A Short History of Medicine, by F. Gonzalez-Crussi

The Christian World, by Martin Marty

Prehistory, by Colin Renfrew

Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History, by Margaret MacMillan

Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment, by Stephen Kotkin

The Korean War: A History, by Bruce Cummings

The Romantic Revolution: A History, by Tim Blanning

Oxford History of the United States

The Oxford History of the United States (1982–2018) is an ongoing multi-volume narrative history of the United States published by Oxford University Press.

Pulitzer Prize for History

The Pulitzer Prize for History, administered by Columbia University, is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It has been presented since 1917 for a distinguished book about the history of the United States. Thus it is one of the original Pulitzers, for the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year. The Pulitzer Prize program has also recognized some historical work with its Biography prize, from 1917, and its General Non-Fiction prize, from 1952.

Finalists have been announced from 1980, ordinarily two others beside the winner.

Republicanism in the United States

Modern republicanism is a guiding political philosophy of the United States that has been a major part of American civic thought since its founding. It stresses liberty and unalienable individual rights as central values, making people sovereign as a whole; rejects monarchy, aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be virtuous and faithful in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption. American republicanism was articulated and first practiced by the Founding Fathers in the 18th century. For them, "republicanism represented more than a particular form of government. It was a way of life, a core ideology, an uncompromising commitment to liberty, and a total rejection of aristocracy."Republicanism was based on Ancient Greco-Roman, Renaissance, and English models and ideas. It formed the basis for the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Constitution (1787), and the Bill of Rights, as well as the Gettysburg Address (1863).Republicanism includes guarantees of rights that cannot be repealed by a majority vote. Alexis de Tocqueville warned about the "tyranny of the majority" in a democracy, and suggested the courts should try to reverse the efforts of the majority of terminating the rights of an unpopular minority.The term 'republicanism' is derived from the term 'republic', but the two words have different meanings. A 'republic' is a form of government (one without a hereditary ruling class); 'republicanism' refers to the values of the citizens in a republic.Two major parties have used the term in their name – the Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson (founded in 1793, and often called the 'Jeffersonian Republican Party'), and the current Republican Party, founded in 1854 and named after the Jeffersonian party.

Ron Chernow

Ronald Chernow (; born March 3, 1949) is an American writer, journalist, historian, and biographer. He has written bestselling and award-winning biographies of historical figures from the world of business, finance, and American politics.

He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography and the 2011 American History Book Prize for his 2010 book, Washington: A Life. He is also the recipient of the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his 1990 book, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance. His biographies of Alexander Hamilton (2004) and John D. Rockefeller (1998) were both nominated for National Book Critics Circle Awards, while the former served as the inspiration for the Hamilton musical, for which Chernow worked as a historical consultant. Another book, The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family, was honored with the 1993 George S. Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing. As a freelance journalist, he has written over 60 articles in national publications.

The Almanac of American History

The Almanac of American History (1983) (revised edition 2004) is a reference work on American history in chronology format. Its general editor is Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and the executive editor is John S. Bowman.Schlesinger wrote the introduction; in the current edition the introduction to each of the six sections is written by a different noted scholar:

"Founding a Nation" (986-1787)–Gordon S. Wood (Brown University)

"Testing a Union" (1788-1865)–Marcus Cunliffe (George Washington University)

"Forging a Nation" (1866-1900)–S.L. Mayer (University of Southern California)

"Expanding Resources" (1901-1945)–Richard C. Wade (City University of New York)

"Emerging as a World Power" (1946-1999)–Robert H. Ferrell (Indiana University)

"Facing the Next Century" (2000-)–Rodney P. Carlisle (Rutgers University)

The Radicalism of the American Revolution

The Radicalism of the American Revolution is a nonfiction book by historian Gordon S. Wood, published by Vintage Books in 1993. In the book, Wood explores the radical character of the American Revolution. The book was awarded the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History.

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