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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (207 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jack N. Rakove Narrator: Steven Webe Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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What did the U.S. Constitution originally mean, and how can we recover the intentions of its framers? These questions, which resound throughout today’s most heated legal and political controversies, lie at the heart of Jack N. Rakove’s splendidly readable work of historical analysis. In Original Meanings, he traces the complex weave of ideology and interests from which the Constitution emerged and shows how Americans have attached different meanings to their founding document from the moment it was published.

Original Meanings examines the classic issues that the framers of the Constitution had to solve: federalism, representation, executive power, individual rights, and the idea that the Constitution itself should become supreme law. Rakove pays particular attention to James Madison, the Constitution’s presiding genius, whose brilliance shaped the document’s framing, ratification, and amendment. The result is a major work of reinterpretation that should be read by every student of American history, law, and politics.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A deeply satisfying account of the political world from which the United States Constitution issued.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “With exquisite skill…Rakove convincingly demonstrates how complicated the issue of original intent really is…A first-rate historian.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Rich, learned, and profound…fascinating reading.”

    Boston Globe

  • “The most thoughtful and careful scholarly analysis to date of the extent to which the framers should control our contemporary understanding of the Constitution.”

    Stanley N. Katz, American Council of Learned Societies

  • “This work ranks with well-known works by Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, Bruce Ackerman, and others. Its focus on the importance of language is reason enough for placing it on one’s shelf.”

    Library Journal

  • “A unique contribution to the historical and legal debate surrounding the Constitution.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for History

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Brynne | 12/31/2013

    " I'm not sure that I fully understood everything in this book. At least I tried... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Tiffany | 11/28/2013

    " I read this a few years ago. It is a great read but it is really heavy non-fiction. You have to be dedicated to the subject to want to read for the content. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Greg Smith | 9/27/2013

    " Yawn...can't believe this was a Putlizer prize winner. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Jeff | 2/18/2013

    " Rakove's book is a silly attack on the Originalist theory of constitutional interpretation. Rakove's argument basically boils down to "Lawyers can't do history! History is for Historians! Whaa! Whaa! Whaa!" "

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About the Author
Author Jack N. Rakove

Jack Rakove, the Coe Professor of History and American Studies and a professor of political science at Stanford University, is one of the most distinguished historians of the early American republic. He won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1997 for Original Meanings and frequently writes op-ed articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers.