I am pleased to announce that my new book, THE AMERICAN REVELATION: TEN IDEALS THAT SHAPED OUR COUNTRY FROM THE PURITANS TO THE COLD WAR, has been published by St. Martin's Press. You can order the book now through any online or independent bookseller. The ISBN# is 0312325436, and the price is $14.95. [Read "Q & A with Neil Baldwin"]
My previous book, HENRY FORD AND THE JEWS: THE MASS PRODUCTION OF HATE (Public Affairs, 2001) explored the dark side of an American icon. After that book had been out for awhile, I realized that the ongoing biography of this country I seemed to be writing needed another course-correction, this time toward the positive side of the trail. I started thinking about ideals and concepts and phrases in our history that we may take for granted, or think we know from school-days, so-called received ideas in the American lexicon, and how many of them could benefit from a fresh revisit. I wanted to dig below the surface of the culture and root around to find the genesis of some quintessential American concepts - who invented them, how and at what exact moment did they enter the national discourse, what did they signify at the time of creation. What could my explorations instructively tell new readers about the American heritage?
At around the time that I was working on a book about another American icon, EDISON, INVENTING THE CENTURY
(Hyperion, 1995) I began to understand one of the chronic problems in
our sense of history as a nation. Progress - as they say - is indeed
our most important product. As technologies improve, as we develop
faster and better ways to do things and communicate ideas, as the media
expand exponentially and we begin to move forward faster and faster, we
concomitantly lose sight of the past. Don't get me wrong - I am not a
"Luddite." However, the life and inventive work of Thomas Edison taught
me that in order to move forward there must be a firm foundation for
the present. Authentic progress will not be accomplished unless we are
certain we know as much as possible about where we are coming from.
That is another reason, as a historian, why I wrote THE AMERICAN
The subtitle was very carefully constructed. These are not "the only" ten ideals that shaped our country. They are a selection, a few out of the many. Furthermore, THE AMERICAN REVELATION is not an exhaustive comprehensive history book. It dips in and out of past times and places from Massachusetts in 1630 to Washington DC in 1953. It begins in a virgin land and ends with the world on the brink of unprecedented tensions.
I believe that my new book will prove to be an instructive tale for our own times.