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A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic di [Ferling, John]
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Ferling delivers an engaging account of the creation of the United States (Eran Shaley, Journal of American Studies)

This is an account loaded with facts but unburdened by them; the result is a book that never gets bogged down. A gifted biographer, the author interrupts his narrative to introduce the major figures as each comes on the stage, bringing the history of these times to life with vivid descriptions and artful analyses of the interplay of men, their interests and their ideas. (Gary L. Mcdowell, Times Literary Supplement)

A Leap in the Dark is popular history at its best. Ferling has drawn together the research of the leading historians and woven a masterful narrative that is written with grace and flair. (Gary L. Mcdowell, Times Literary Supplement)

John Ferling has here proved himself the master narrator of this great political tale. (Gary L. Mcdowell, Times Literary Supplement)

John Ferling's study of the early United States A Leap into the Dark, is solid history that will refresh anyone's memory of the essential stories and figures in America's founding. And it will enlighten anyone about the origin of some current civic problems ... His book provides not just political and intellectual history, but emotional history as well. (Christian Science Monitor (USA))

In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling conveys the personal and contingent character of public affairs by skillfully interweaving capsule biographies of leaders into his analysis of events. His book, which stretches from the French and Indian War through the inauguration of President Thomas Jefferson, supplies a learned and readable narrative of American politics during a crucial era in the nation's history. (Richard Brown, University of Connecticut)


It was an age of fascinating leaders and difficult choices, of grand ideas eloquently expressed and of epic conflicts bitterly fought. Now comes a brilliant portrait of the American Revolution, one that is compelling in its prose, fascinating in its details, and provocative in its fresh interpretations.

In A Leap in the Dark, John Ferling offers a magisterial new history that surges from the first rumblings of colonial protest to the volcanic election of 1800. Ferling's swift-moving narrative teems with fascinating details. We see Benjamin Franklin trying to decide if his loyalty was to Great Britain or to America, and we meet George Washington when he was a shrewd planter-businessman who discovered personal economic advantages to American independence. We encounter those who supported the war against Great Britain in 1776, but opposed independence because it was a "leap in the dark." Following the war, we hear talk in the North of secession from the United States. The author offers a gripping account of the most dramatic events of our history, showing just how closely fought were the struggle for independence, the adoption of the Constitution, and the later battle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Yet, without slowing the flow of events, he has also produced a landmark study of leadership and ideas. Here is all the erratic brilliance of Hamilton and Jefferson battling to shape the new nation, and here too is the passion and political shrewdness of revolutionaries, such as Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry, and their Loyalist counterparts, Joseph Galloway and Thomas Hutchinson. Here as well are activists who are not so well known today, men like Abraham Yates, who battled for democratic change, and Theodore Sedgwick, who fought to preserve the political and social system of the colonial past. Ferling shows that throughout this period the epic political battles often resembled today's politics and the politicians--the founders--played a political hardball attendant with enmities, selfish motivations, and bitterness. The political stakes, this book demonstrates, were extraordinary: first to secure independence, then to determine the meaning of the American Revolution.

John Ferling has shown himself to be an insightful historian of our Revolution, and an unusually skillful writer. A Leap in the Dark is his masterpiece, work that provokes, enlightens, and entertains in full measure.

Dettagli prodotto

  • Formato: Formato Kindle
  • Dimensioni file: 3969 KB
  • Lunghezza stampa: 576
  • Editore: Oxford University Press; 1 edizione (12 giugno 2003)
  • Venduto da: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Lingua: Inglese
  • ASIN: B0061ADHIA
  • Da testo a voce: Abilitato
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  • Media recensioni: Recensisci per primo questo articolo
  • Posizione nella classifica Bestseller di Amazon: #552.671 a pagamento nel Kindle Store (Visualizza i Top 100 a pagamento nella categoria Kindle Store)
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Le recensioni clienti più utili su (beta) (Potrebbero essere presenti recensioni del programma "Early Reviewer Rewards") 4.3 su 5 stelle 62 recensioni
6 di 6 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle A Legendary Stuggle Revealed by a Master Historian 24 luglio 2013
Di gloine36 - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
I have to confess that I'm a fan of John Ferling's writing. I read Independence last year and really enjoyed the way he presented the information. I expected no less from A Leap in the Dark and I certainly was not disappointed. One of my major peeves in historical writing and discussion is that of bias. Nothing turns me off more than polemic historical writing. I don't care whether I agree with the author or not about their personal political persuasion; I want to read a factually based book where the author is presenting a logical and well thought out assessment of the subject while doing so using facts to support that assessment. In Leap, Ferling built a case that I thought made good use of factual documentation to support his theses.

In this past election year the rhetoric was incredibly loud and extremely polarized, but I don't think it rivaled the rhetoric used throughout the Revolution. The people of that era used language that was considered shocking and rude, but unlike today's rhetoric of opposition, the revolutionaries advocated armed rebellion and mob violence. I'm glad to see that Ferling made that clear so many times throughout this book. He also didn't place the men we refer to as the Founding Fathers on pedestals either. They were human beings with strengths and weaknesses that all humans have. I liked how he made them accessible to my understanding by making it clear they were regular men of their day, albeit better educated and in general financially well compared to the rest of the population.

I find myself in arguments with others and even fellow history students that haven't studied the Revolution that much about the concept of interests. I actually find that when people ignore the role that interests play in practically everything they end up failing at what they're doing. Ideas are very wonderful things, but they usually don't go far unless they further the interests of groups. It was made very clear that interests drove the Revolution from beginning to end and I think that is very important for people to understand. Ferling didn't admonish the Founders for those interests. He explained them and in doing so showed that despite what some wish us to think, the role of class was very much alive in that time period and it played a major role throughout the period as it has throughout history.

I think it is extremely important to understand history by understanding the context of the time we are studying. I got the feeling early in this book that Ferling understood the context of the time and wrote in accordance with that context while avoiding the temptation of writing in terms of today's context. The story of the Revolution isn't about us. It is about the people of that time. I thought he did a good job in explaining that story and the people in it to me in a very understandable way without losing that context. I believe that is the mark of a good author when they can write on the academic level, but in a way that is easily readable and understood. I know the arguments about academic historians writing being too hard to read, but I don't find Ferling to be one of those. Instead, I found Leap to be intellectually stimulating.

I actually have more issues with the quantity of information. It got to the point where I needed some time to consider what I read and compare it with other books and sources on the Revolution. Over the course of the last few years I've read several books on the American Revolution. I'm happy to say that Leap was not merely a reiteration of other books. Ferling presented new information. I was particularly glad to see another interpretation of the first years of the republic. I get the impression from people that they think the Framers wrote the Constitution and everything was fine after that. Ferling showed me that the early years of the Republic were the most dangerous years as the leaders of the nation fought over the direction the country would go.

The battle between Jefferson and Hamilton was pivotal to the future development of the country. Ferling showed that Hamilton's financial plans enabled the country to establish a solid currency and put the US on a firm foundation which was conducive to the manufacturing system that would arise in the northern states. He also presented the reasons behind Jefferson and Madison's opposition to Hamilton's other plans and how John Adams would oppose Hamilton as well. This information was quite interesting as he really laid out the facts to show why these events occurred the way they did. This was not a book that was written to promote Thomas Jefferson as the man with the best plan for America. I've seen a marked bias from other authors regarding Jefferson and his vision for America. In Leap Jefferson's flaws were presented as were the flaws of many others.

As I said earlier, I'm happy that Ferling portrayed the Founders as human beings and not demigods. He also worked to show the reaction of the American people which predated the actions of the Founders. I find this entire interpretation to be one which puts another nail in the coffin of the concept that the Founders were the ones who started the revolution. The people were the ones who started it. The Founders were the ones who joined with the people are provided the leadership it needed in order to make it happen. Throughout the book there is a consistent tone that the Revolution could have had an entirely different outcome if events had not taken place the way they did. Even after the Treaty of Paris the Revolutionary era continued and the dangers in those years were very real.

I think that answering the question about why something happened in history is far more important than knowing what happened. Showing the actions of the common people, the reactions of the gentry in colonial America both for and against the Revolution, the actions of Parliament, the desperation of the war years, and the years after the war revealed that this revolution was not a foreordained event that would have happened regardless of who was involved or when it took place. Ferling answered my question of why the events he described took place. Too often the events of the Revolution are taken at face value. Ferling was wonderful at going beneath the surface and coming back with the myriad details that I think show there were many reasons why these events took place. Looking at the sources used in constructing the interpretation I can see that Ferling spent a great deal of time compiling them and they are quite useful in exploring some of the information in more depth.

That's why I think the concept of interests is so important to the story of the Revolution and why I learned from reading this book. There just is no way to get away from the fact that interests were the most important reason as to why so many things happened the way they did. That is also something that comes up time after time in history. Personal interests can be found behind the events of history in most cases. There are almost no inevitable events in history. A Leap in the Dark emphasizes that point very well. I'm glad I read the book because I did learn from it. As a political history it hits the mark. It really does illustrate the struggle to create the American Republic quite well.
1 di 1 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Favorite book ever on American Revolution 26 gennaio 2016
Di ACeeKayWa - Pubblicato su
Formato: Formato Kindle Acquisto verificato
This excellent book should be used in schools. Kids would definitely enjoy American History class a lot more. I'm a history buff and thought I was fairly knowledgeable about the American revolution. False vanity that was! So much fascinating information. People and events came alive here. I even enjoyed the notes, which led me on a merry internet chase to learn more. The only negative (but maybe not for you) is the author's habit of using an extremely arcane word when a simple, more straightforward word would be better suited. I read this book on my Kindle Fire and thankfully it's easy to look up a word meaning. For the first time since college, I had to look up words as I read - about a dozen actually. Yes, some words were THAT strange. But don't let that deter you from a wonderful read.
2 di 2 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle Events behind the events 4 aprile 2013
Di Larry Richardson - Pubblicato su
Formato: Formato Kindle Acquisto verificato
Let me just state up front that I am kind of a nut about anything dealing with our revolution. This book is one of the best I've ever read in looking into what was behind all the events that brought our colony to the brink of war and beyond. Ferling supplies a tremendous amount of detailed background information beginning with the era of the French & Indian war. His analysis of the politics and men of the revolutionary period is extremely detailed and any reader will discover details that you learn for the first time. This is a very well researched book, and yet it's written in a style that is very readable. For those just beginning a study of the revolution and the people and events of the time, this book might be TOO detailed. But for those of us that can't get enough, this book is tremendously informative and at the same time, a most interesting read.
14 di 14 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle A Good Place to Start 11 ottobre 2009
Di Debra - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
Ferling is always a pleasure to read. I also recommend his "Almost A Miracle". This work is a great place to begin for an overview of this period, especially Ferling's account of the events leading up to the Revolution. However, it seems to me that Ferling generalizes too much in the years after the Constitution.
The portrait Ferling paints is one of the non-elite Anti-Federalists vs. the elite Federalists. However, many Anti-Federalists came from the elite whose power within states was threatened by stronger central government. The Clinton-Livingston machine that ran New York and the planter elite that controlled Virginia are examples. This over-simplification is extended into his discussion of Federalists vs. Republicans. For example the small farmers of Shay's rebellion benefitted from the Federal assumption of state debts and became enduring Federalists. Also, many of the "new men" Ferling speaks of, including the self-made Hamilton, were Federalists. The geographical split of the parties is not explained. By 1800, Federalists were strong in New England, but becoming virtually non-existent in the South. It is hard to believe that New England was composed of elitists and left-over Tories, while the South was the home of egalitarians.
I agree with Ferling's statement in his preface that people rarely adopt ideologies that conflict with their personal interests. This was no less true of Anti-federalists and Republicans, though Ferling shows this connection more clearly with their opponents. It is good to remember that the yeomen farmers of Virginia, whom Jefferson praises as the foundation of republicanism, were dependant on and deferential to wealthy planters like Jefferson making it safe for him to embrace them. And the Southern Republicans' resistance to central government dovetailed nicely with the preservation of their peculiar institution, slavery. By working to insure a weak central government that would not interfere in (or tax) property rights in land or slaves, Republicans made sure that the people would not have the means to threaten their privileged status.
I would strongly recommend to anyone who wishes to more fully understand the period from 1788 to 1800 to read Elkins and McKitrick's "The Age of Federalism". It is a thorough, well-written and detailed account that will provide many of the nuances that Ferling leaves out. For an excellent treatment of the underpinnings of 18th century political economy read Drew McCoy's "Elusive Republic". Another good read is Elizabeth Dunn's "Dominion of Memories" which, in a small volume, packs a lot of information on Virginia's planter elite, their obsession with protecting a pastoral utopia that never really existed and the decline of the Old Dominion. The time period for this work is largely 19th century, however it does show the background of Republican thinking and how that ideology played out in Virginia. Joseph Ellis' "American Sphinx" gives a less hagiographic (and fuller) view of Jefferson.
9 di 9 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle A Good Introduction to and Political History of the Founding of the United States 22 dicembre 2005
Di Marvin Aberle - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina flessibile Acquisto verificato
John Ferling ambitiously sets out in this book to cover an extensive and rich period of American history. As his chapter titles suggest, the period covered spans from 1754 to 1801. I chose this book instead of Robert Middlekauff's Glorious Cause as an introduction to America's founding because it goes beyond the ratification of the Constitution (where Glorious Cause ends) to cover the contest between Federalists and Republicans and the presidencies of Washington and Adams. I wanted a comprehensive survey of the period and Ferling certainly delivered. The book does, however, focus primarily on the political evolution of the period and skims the military history.

So very much happened in the time between 1754 and 1801, that it is impossible to thoroughly address every event and happening. Ferling has condensed the period into merely 500 pages, something that could take well over 2000 pages to thoroughly cover. But he has focused in on the important events and processes for his book to adequately serve as an introduction to the beginnings of the United States. I especially enjoyed, as many of the other reviewers have, the interesting portraits he paints of the most important characters: George Washington, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. These 4- to 8-page descriptions can serve as jump-off points to pursue these characters in more depth in other works.

A Leap in the Dark is an excellent introduction to the American Revolution, the creation of the Constitution, and the first two American presidencies. If, however, you are already familiar with the general course of events and personalities of the period, it would be better to seek out works more narrowly focused.
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