Narrating Nationhood

Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


In their most self-conscious moments, American intellectuals stared into “the mirror which reflects the true image of a nation” and began to compose their collective autobiography—the history of the American Republic. Their mission was exalted, the historians knew, for they offered their countrymen self-knowledge, moral instruction, and pleasure. Because “the actions and affairs of men are subject to as regular and uniform laws, as other events” in nature, the study of history is “the most important of all our philosophical speculations” and a “source of the sublimest moral improvement,” one New England minister/historian declared. According to another, history “teaches human nature, politics and morals, forms the head and heart for usefulness, and is an important part of the instruction and literature of states and nations.” Indeed, it was difficult to imagine a nation without a history of its own. As the editor of a leading Philadelphia literary magazine concluded, “every genuine patriot” must “earnestly long” for an authentic American history.1


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Selected Bibliography

  1. Cohen, Lester H. The Revolutionary Histories: Contemporary Narratives of the American Revolution. Ithaca, N.Y., 1980.Google Scholar
  2. Harris, Neil. The Artist in American Society: The Formative Years, 1790–1860. Chicago, 1966.Google Scholar
  3. Kornfeld, Eve. “From Republicanism to Liberalism: The Intellectual Journey of David Ramsay.” Journal of the Early Republic, 9 (Fall 1989): 289–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Nochlin, Linda. The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society. New York, 1989.Google Scholar
  5. Shaffer, Arthur H. To Be an American: David Ramsay and the Making of the American Consciousness. Columbia, S.C., 1991.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bedford/St. Martin’s 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San Diego State UniversityUSA

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