Gordon S. Wood
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Gordon S. Wood
Gordon S. Wood
Gordon Wood historian 2006.jpg
Wood in 2006
Gordon Stewart Wood[1]

(1933-11-27) November 27, 1933 (age 85)
Alma materHarvard University (A.M., PhD)
Tufts University (B.A.)
ChildrenChristopher Wood, Elizabeth, Amy
AwardsPulitzer Prize (1993)
Bancroft Prize (1970)
National Humanities Medal (2010)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCollege of William and Mary
Harvard University
University of Michigan
Brown University
Cambridge University
Northwestern University School of Law
Doctoral advisorBernard Bailyn

Gordon Stewart Wood (born November 27, 1933) is an American historian and university professor at Brown University. He is a recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992). His book The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (1969) won a 1970 Bancroft Prize. In 2010, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

Early life and education

Wood was born in Concord, Massachusetts, and grew up in Worcester and Waltham. He graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University in 1955 and has served as a trustee there. After serving in the United States Air Force in Japan, during which time he earned an A.M. at Harvard University, he entered the Ph.D. program in history at Harvard, where he studied under Bernard Bailyn, receiving his Ph.D. in 1964.


Wood has taught at Harvard, the College of William and Mary, the University of Michigan, Brown University, and in 1982-83 was Pitt Professor at Cambridge University.

In addition to his books (listed below), Wood has written numerous influential articles, notably "Rhetoric and Reality in the American Revolution" (1966), "Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style: Causality and Deceit in the Eighteenth century" (1982), and "Interests and Disinterestedness in the Making of the Constitution" (1987). He is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and The New Republic.

A recent project was the third volume of the Oxford History of the United States - Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (2009) - a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Contributing to the anthology Our American Story (2019), Wood addressed the possibility of a shared American narrative. He focused on the idea of equality as "the most radical and most powerful ideological force" that the American Revolution unleashed. "This powerful sense of equality is still alive and well in America, and despite all of its disturbing and unsettling consequences, it is what makes us one people."[2]

In popular culture

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich publicly and effusively praised Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992), erroneously calling it The Founding of America. Wood, who met Gingrich once in 1994, surmised that Gingrich may have approved because the book "had a kind of Toquevillian touch to it, I guess, maybe suggesting American exceptionalism, that he liked". He jokingly described Gingrich's praise in an interview on C-SPAN in 2002 as "the kiss of death for me among a lot of academics, who are not right-wing Republicans."[3]

In one of the celebrated scenes of the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon's title character gets into a battle of wits with a student from Harvard University, whom he accuses of uncritically parroting the views of the authors on his reading list as a first-year graduate student. He goes on to predict that a little later in his curriculum, he would simply be "regurgitating Gordon Wood." The student begins to respond with a critique of Wood, which Hunting interrupts, completes, and incorrectly claims to be a passage plagiarized from page 98 of Daniel Vickers' Work in Essex County.[4][5]

In the show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, character Charlie Kelly (played by Charlie Day) references Wood at a college party, trying to replicate the success of Matt Damon's character in Good Will Hunting. He has little success since he has no idea who or what Gordon Wood or his work is - embarrassingly assuming he will be able to pull off the same argument as he is a janitor like Matt Damon's character.

Personal life

Wood married the former Louise Goss on April 30, 1956. They have three children: Christopher, Elizabeth and Amy.[1] Their son, Christopher Wood, is a professor of German at New York University and their daughter, Amy, is a professor of history at Illinois State University, and Elizabeth is an administrator at Milton Academy.


  • The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1969, 1998. (ISBN 978-0807847237)
  • (Editor) Representation in the American Revolution, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1969. (ISBN 978-0813927220)
  • (Editor) The Rising Glory of America, 1760-1820, George Braziller (New York), 1971, revised edition, Northeastern University Press (Boston, MA), 1990. (ISBN 978-1555530907)
  • (Editor) The Confederation and the Constitution, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1973.
  • Revolution and the Political Integration of the Enslaved and Disenfranchised, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (Washington, DC), 1974. (ISBN 978-0844713045)
  • (Contributor) Leadership in the American Revolution, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1974.
  • (With J.R. Pole) Social Radicalism and the Idea of Equality in the American Revolution, University of St. Thomas (Houston, TX), 1976.
  • (With others) The Great Republic, Little, Brown (Boston), 1977, 4th edition, Heath (Lexington, MA), 1992.
  • The Making of the Constitution, Baylor University Press (Waco, TX), 1987. (ISBN 978-0918954541)
  • (Editor) Rising Glory of America, 1760-1820, Northeastern University Press (Boston), 1990.
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Alfred A. Knopf (New York), 1992. (ISBN 978-0679736882)
  • (Editor, with Louise G. Wood) Russian-American Dialogue on the American Revolution, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1995.
  • (Editor, with Paul A. Gilje et al.) Wages of Independence: Capitalism in the Early American Republic, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997. (ISBN 978-0945612520)
  • (Editor, with Anthony Molho) Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1998. (ISBN 978-0691058115)
  • Monarchism and Republicanism in the Early United States, La Trobe University (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 2000.
  • The American Revolution: A History, Modern Library (New York), 2001. (ISBN 978-0812970418)
  • The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, Penguin Press (New York), 2004. (ISBN 978-0143035282)
  • Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, Penguin Press (New York), 2006. (ISBN 978-0143112082)
  • The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History, Penguin Press (New York), 2008. (ISBN 978-0143115045)
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, Oxford University Press (New York), 2010. (ISBN 978-0199832460)
  • The Idea of America. Reflections on the Birth of the United States. Penguin Press, New York City, 2011. (ISBN 978-0143121244)
  • (Editor) John Adams: Revolutionary Writings 1755-1783 (2 vols.), The Library of America (New York), 2011. (ISBN 978-1598530902)
  • (Editor) The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1764-1776 (2 vols.), The Library of America (New York), 2015. (ISBN 978-1598533781)
  • (Editor) John Adams: Writings from the New Nation 1784-1826, The Library of America (New York), 2016. (ISBN 978-1598534665)
  • Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Penguin Books (New York), 2017 (ISBN 978-0735224730 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN.)
  • Book contributions


  1. ^ a b c Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2010. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2010. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC. Document Number: H1000107915. Retrieved 2010-06-22
  2. ^ Claybourn, Joshua, ed. (2019). Our American Story: The Search for a Shared National Narrative. Lincoln, NE: Potomac Books. pp. 55-65. ISBN 1640121706.
  3. ^ National Cable Satellite Corporation (April 21, 2002). "Booknotes". Transcript of an interview with Wood by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN's Booknotes. Retrieved 2009.
  4. ^ Vickers, Daniel (1994). Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County, Massachusetts, 1630-1850. Williamsburg, Virginia: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture; University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0807844588.
  5. ^ "Good Will Hunting Script at IMSDb". The Internet Movie Script Database. The Internet Movie Script Database. Retrieved 2019.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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