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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
July 2021
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Book description

American political thought was shaped by a unique combination of theoretical influences: republicanism, liberalism, and covenant theology. This reader shows how these influences came together. Organized chronologically from the Puritans' arrival in the New World to the Civil War, each chapter includes carefully selected primary sources and substantial commentary to explain the historical context and significance of the excerpts. A coherent interpretative framework is offered by focusing the analysis on the different assumptions of the people - the republican understanding as a corporate whole and the liberal understanding as a multitude of individuals - that were intertwined during the founding. The book features, for the first time, two chapters on non-American authors, who capture the main tenets of republicanism and liberalism and were widely quoted in the era, as well as excerpts from lesser-known sources, including Puritan covenants, the first state constitutions, and Native American speeches.


‘This valuable anthology connects primary texts of American political thought with key works of the European tradition. By focusing on the liberal, republican, and Puritan sources of the American founding period, Fumurescu and Schön provide the best introduction I know to the richness and diversity of our enduring national character. This book will be an invaluable instructional text for years to come.'

Steven B. Smith - Yale University

‘This is a judiciously selected, well organized, and helpfully introduced anthology that should prove a valuable resource for both undergraduate and graduate teaching of the historical foundations of America's civic culture.'

Thomas L. Pangle - University of Texas, Austin

‘Alin Fumurescu and Anna Marisa Schön provide an excellent introduction to the foundations of American political thought with this collection of readings and commentary that showcases competing understandings of the American political order and contested notions of American exceptionalism. Beginning with the classical and modern sources of American political thought and concluding with Abraham Lincoln's profound reflections in the crucible of the Civil War, this book is an essential resource for students and scholars alike.'

Justin Buckley Dyer - University of Missouri

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