Books by Andrew Burstein

Andrew Burstein is the author of two previous books on American political culture: Sentimental Democracy: The Evolution of America's Romantic Self- Image (1999) and The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist (1995). He has had a varied career, w

Released: April 16, 2019

"A top-notch dual biography of two presidents who deserved better."
An unsettling yet well-presented argument that the failures of John and John Quincy Adams illustrate a disturbing feature of American politics. Read full book review >
Released: May 21, 2013

"Readers who believe dreams are predictive will likely enjoy this book, which is really only saved by the author's talent as a writer. Burstein should drop the dream interpreting and stick to the history of our forefathers."
An acclaimed historian dives headlong into the dreams of some iconic Americans. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2010

"A superb book that greatly deepens our understanding of these founders."
A monumental account of a 50-year political partnership that shaped the early history of the United States. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2007

"An important reassessment of Irving that restores him to his rightful place as a founder of American literature."
The first major biography in a half-century of one of America's first professional writers, from a historian (History/Univ. of Tulsa) who specializes in early America (Jefferson's Secrets, 2005, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

"He succeeds, and students of Jefferson will find his latest effort most illuminating."
Among the things that absorbed the Founding Father's waking thoughts: death, sex, God, and diarrhea. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 17, 2003

"Nicely written and generally well-considered: particularly useful for students of the Jacksonian era."
Brawler, liar, adulterer, murderer. This was one of the great presidents? Read full book review >
AMERICA’S JUBILEE by Andrew Burstein
Released: Jan. 23, 2001

"Burstein's evocative reconstruction shows Americans pausing to consider where they had been and where they were going. (20 b&w illustrations, 2 maps) "
An affecting portrait of the US on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1999

A scholarly, exhaustively detailed account of how America's founding generation used the "language of sentiment" to establish a benevolent, romantic self-image for the new nation. Historian Burstein (Univ. of Northern Iowa) has compiled evidence from letters, speeches, newspapers, poems, and popular literature to illustrate 18th-century America's "concern with the workings of the human heart," a concern that helped shape the founders and their nationalist ideology. Through the use of sentimental language, the revolutionary generation created a sort of secular religion envisioning America as a divinely ordained Eden whose example would liberate the world from tyranny. Burstein parses this sentimental language, citing the impassioned words of Jefferson, Crävecoeur, Paine, and others. With a profound understanding of the moral and intellectual climate of the Revolutionary era, Burstein describes the evolving mythology of the young nation. Washington was transformed into a symbol of republican virtue, a selfless Cincinnatus forsaking his plow to defend his country. The "spirit of '76" stressed a love of liberty that compelled total self-sacrifice. As postwar factionalism and economic instability rose, the rhetoric of moral crisis returned. Federalists increasingly bemoaned the "unbridled passions" of the multitudes, fearing a descent into Hobbesian mob rule. Hence, they proposed constitutional checks and balances to channel public sentiment. Jefferson, Burstein's quintessential Man of Feeling, feared this centralization of power as a smokescreen for aristocracy; he revered the simpler, agrarian virtues, worshiped Nature, and trusted in resilient individualism. While the Jacksonian era seemed to embody Jefferson's idyllic vision, it also promoted concepts of acquisitiveness and aggression. As the 19th century advanced, Burstein notes, the seemingly contradictory concepts of sentiment and power were merged into a national ideology of benevolent aggression, whereby power was wielded for paternalistic or "civilizing" motives. Burstein wisely admits that the nation hasn't always lived up to its romantic self-image, especially in its treatment of slaves and Native Americans. A welcome addition to the literature exploring American history's ideological underpinnings. Read full book review >