9780195116700 / 0195116704

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About the book:

In historical writing, there's no substitute for primary sources such as letters and diaries of eyewitnesses and participants. But all too often those sources are handled as minor adjuncts to a text, appearing in truncated form with so little context provided that the immediacy of the material is diluted. The Boisterous Sea of Liberty takes the direct approach of celebrating the primary sources, offering 366 separate documents from colonial times to the Civil War, each presented with a brief yet substantive introduction that provides context as well as entertaining background information about the writers and their subjects. The result is a hefty volume with entries that, as the introduction by coeditor and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Brion Davis, puts it, "can have the power of a fax or e-mail just received, evaporating the gap between past and present." Commendably, editors Davis, a history professor at Yale, and Steven Mintz, a history professor at the University of Houston, have mined deep and wide into the American past in their effort to construct a "documentary history" of the nation up to the Civil War. Not only are there some obvious primary sources, including letters by Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, but there are also letters and diary entries by people you may never have never heard of before, but who offer valuable insight and fascinating commentary into the United States' first century. --Robert McNamara

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