Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Henry Adams and the Making of America

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Henry Adams and the Making of America

Article excerpt

HISTORY Henry Adams and the Making of America, by Carry Wills. Houghton Mifflin, September 2005. $30

Garry Wills is one of the intellectual stalwarts of our time. As a historian, writer, and social critic he has won prestigious awards. Is it curious, or is it telling, that he chooses not to take, or has not been offered, a prestigious academic chair? In this important book Wills launches a broadside across the bow of academic history and English departments for negligence and nonfeasance. He's not one of the brethren?

He claims that Henry Adams' nine volume History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (4 volumes) and History of the United States During the Administrations of James Madison (5 volumes) is a "nonfiction prose masterpiece" and it would have been long recognized as such, except that the historians never read beyond the first volume, and the English professors never got beyond his later book, The Education of Henry James.

Wills' claim for Adams' work, or his attribution of blame may be arguable, but this book, quite apart from those features is a wonderful trip. …

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