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Extended Audio Sample Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, by Gordon S. Wood Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (930 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Gordon S. Wood Narrator: Scott Bric Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Even when the greatness of the Founding Fathers isn’t being debunked, it is a quality that feels very far away from us indeed: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Co. seem as distant as marble faces carved high into a mountainside. We may marvel at the fact that fate placed such a talented cohort of political leaders in that one place, the east coast of North America, in colonies between Virginia and Massachusetts, and during that one fateful period, but that doesn’t really help us explain it or teach us the proper lessons to draw from it. What did make the founders different? Now, the incomparable Gordon Wood has written a book that shows us, among many other things, just how much character did matter.

Revolutionary Characters offers a series of brilliantly illuminating studies of the men who came to be known as the Founding Fathers. Each life is considered in the round, but the thread that binds the work together and gives it the cumulative power of a revelation is this idea of character as a lived reality for these men. For these were men, Gordon Wood shows, who took the matter of character very, very seriously. They were the first generation in history that was self-consciously self-made, men who understood the arc of lives, as of nations, as being one of moral progress. They saw themselves as comprising the world’s first true meritocracy, a natural aristocracy as opposed to the decadent Old World aristocracy of inherited wealth and station.

Gordon Wood’s wondrous accomplishment here is to bring these men and their times down to earth and within our reach, showing us just who they were and what drove them. In so doing, he shows us that although a lot has changed in two hundred years, to an amazing degree the virtues these founders defined for themselves are the virtues we aspire to still.

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Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Katie | 2/11/2014

    " Michael's book that I picked up and lost before finishing. Interesting particularly in how it goes into the ways in which modern politicians use the images of the founders. Annoying in the old curmudgeonley tone of the author. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Mark Kasten | 2/1/2014

    " Solid, but brief look into a half dozen or so of the key American founding fathers that excels in tying the Revolution to the Enlightenment period. Too often though, the individual parts never seem to tie together to make a cohesive whole other than consistently pointing out the fact that these great "indifferent" men were eventually expendable by their condescension of making a government empowered by those who before then had no control at all. A similar anthology book that centers on events instead of individuals by Joseph Ellis entitled "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation" would be the one to read first, but one would certainly not waste any time spent on these tales. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Dana | 1/17/2014

    " I listened to this one in the car, though it was sometimes a bit dense (or I was a bit dense) during my 6:00am commute. I consider myself a history nerd, so this fit. I think I can look at the presidential (and vice-presidential) roles with more insight after hearing Wood's interpretation of the original roles of them. There's also a lot more complexity to the US founders than the brief overview we get in 5th grade. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kyle | 12/23/2013

    " Started strong, ended downright boring. "

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