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Liberty and Freedom

A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas

David Hackett Fischer

Publication Date - November 2004

ISBN: 9780195162530

864 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $75.00

By the best-selling author of Washington's Crossing and Albion's Seed, a strikingly original cultural history of America's founding principles


Liberty and freedom: Americans agree that these values are fundamental to our nation, but what do they mean? How have their meanings changed through time? In this new volume of cultural history, David Hackett Fischer shows how these varying ideas form an intertwined strand that runs through the core of American life.
Fischer examines liberty and freedom not as philosophical or political abstractions, but as folkways and popular beliefs deeply embedded in American culture. Tocqueville called them "habits of the heart." From the earliest colonies, Americans have shared ideals of liberty and freedom, but with very different meanings. Like DNA these ideas have transformed and recombined in each generation.
The book arose from Fischer's discovery that the words themselves had differing origins: the Latinate "liberty" implied separation and independence. The root meaning of "freedom" (akin to "friend") connoted attachment: the rights of belonging in a community of freepeople. The tension between the two senses has been a source of conflict and creativity throughout American history.
Liberty & Freedom studies the folk history of those ideas through more than 400 visions, images, and symbols. It begins with the American Revolution, and explores the meaning of New England's Liberty Tree, Pennsylvania's Liberty Bells, Carolina's Liberty Crescent, and "Don't Tread on Me" rattlesnakes. In the new republic, the search for a common American symbol gave new meaning to Yankee Doodle, Uncle Sam, Miss Liberty, and many other icons. In the Civil War, Americans divided over liberty and freedom. Afterward, new universal visions were invented by people who had formerly been excluded from a free society--African Americans, American Indians, and immigrants. The twentieth century saw liberty and freedom tested by enemies and contested at home, yet it brought the greatest outpouring of new visions, from Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms to Martin Luther King's "dream" to Janis Joplin's "nothin' left to lose."
Illustrated in full color with a rich variety of images, Liberty and Freedom is, literally, an eye-opening work of history--stimulating, large-spirited, and ultimately, inspiring.

About the Author(s)

David Hackett Fischer is University Professor at Brandeis, and author of the New York Times bestseller Washington's Crossing as well as Bound Away, The Great Wave, and Paul Revere's Ride. This volume is a successor to his acclaimed Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America.


"Liberty and Freedom is a lavishly illustrated, well-written survey of American cutlrual history that is a deliht to read. It bears the hallmarks of David Hackett-Fischer's scholarship. It is provocative, learned and well-argued."--Frank Cogliano, History

"Endlessly entertaining. It offers the author a chance to fact-check and retell some of the great stories of American history (Francis Scott Key and 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' Betsy Ross and the flag) and dredge up icons that have been sadly forgotten.... There are hundreds of fascinating strands in this volume, each of them worth tugging at."--Philip Kennicott, Washington Post Book World

"Impressive.... A richly illustrated study of both American ideals as they developed through such visual symbols as Yankee Doodle and Uncle Sam."--Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Liberty and Freedom seeks to combine the 'new' history with the 'old,' using the habits and customs of ordinary people to illuminate the actions and ideas of political leaders.... Fischer declares that the creative tension between the two concepts has given English-speaking people 'a distinctive dynamism in their thoughts about liberty and freedom.'"--New York Times Book Review

"A staggering achievement, learned and erudite in the best sense of the words. It is chock full of engaging anecdotes and rich narrative material. Fischer has conceptualized the whole history and issue of 'liberty and freedom' in a very creative and thoughtful way."--Michael Kammen, Cornell University, author of Life in the Past Lane and Mystic Chords of Memory

"An important and thought-provoking synthesis of historical analysis and cultural commentary that is accessible to lay readers.... Using many black-and-white and color illustrations, historian Fischer recounts fascinating true stories and creative legends, demonstrating how images and symbols in American history (e.g., 'Stars and Stripes,' the Liberty Bell, the American Eagle) reflect varying meanings of these two ideas."--Library Journal

"Liberty and freedom are America's most priceless heritage, which we have tried to export to other peoples. But what do these words mean? Are they interchangeable? Has their meaning changed over time? David Hackett Fischer sets out to answer these questions in this eloquent, scintillating book, beautifully illustrated with hundreds of images that have functioned as icons of liberty and freedom." --James M. McPherson, Princeton University, author of Crossroads of Freedom and Battle Cry of Freedom

"One of those books that belongs in every serious library of American history."--Books-on-line

"This oversize, beautifully illustrated book shifts subtly from a rich graphic survey, incorporating painting, flags and sculpture, to a broader chronicle of the many ways Americans have articulated their most cherished ideals."--Publishers Weekly

"The more than 400 images add to the historical narratives and stories that examine ideals of freedom from our idealized periods through our more controversial eras, including the Civil War, civil rights, and the anti-Vietnam War movement. The story format makes his book particularly approachable as Fischer offers enormous breadth and depth of exploration of this theme that has defined much of American culture and politics."--Booklist

"Explores the ideas of liberty and freedom through the ways they've been expressed in words, but more significantly, in flags, paintings, campaign paraphernalia, and other visual mediums.... 'Liberty and Freedom' goes beyond historical investigation into political analysis. And while rattlesnake flags and B-29 pinups might seem slender props for such analysis, the fact that there's been a consistent use of certain symbols from the eve of the Revolution to the present suggests that Fischer's discussion is firmly grounded."--Boston Globe

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