In December of 1776 a small boat delivered an old man to France." So begins an enthralling narrative account of how Benjamin Franklin--seventy years old, without any diplomatic training, and possessed of the most rudimentary French--convinced France, an absolute monarchy, to underwrite America's experiment in democracy.
When Franklin stepped onto French soil, he well understood he was embarking on the greatest gamble of his career. By virtue of fame, charisma, and ingenuity, Franklin outmaneuvered British spies, French informers, and hostile colleagues; engineered the Franco-American alliance of 1778; and helped to negotiate the peace of 1783. The eight-year French mission stands not only as Franklin's most vital service to his country but as the most revealing of the man.
In A Great Improvisation, Stacy Schiff draws from new and little-known sources to illuminate the least-explored part of Franklin's life. Here is an unfamiliar, unforgettable chapter of the Revolution, a rousing tale of American infighting, and the treacherous backroom dealings at Versailles that would propel George Washington from near decimation at Valley Forge to victory at Yorktown. From these pages emerge a particularly human and yet fiercely determined Founding Father, as well as a profound sense of how fragile, improvisational, and international was our country's bid for independence.
More than thirty years after working side-by-side in the White House, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger remain two of the most compelling, contradictory, and powerful men in America in the second half of the twentieth century. While their personalities could hardly have seemed more different, they were drawn together by the same magnetic force. Both were largely self-made men, brimming with ambition, driven by their own inner demons, and often ruthless in pursuit of their goals. At the height of their power, the collaboration and rivalry between them led to a sweeping series of policies that would leave a defining mark on the Nixon presidency.
Tapping into a wealth of recently declassified archives, Robert Dallek uncovers fascinating details about Nixon and Kissinger's tumultuous personal relationship and the extent to which they struggled to outdo each other in the reach for achievements in foreign affairs. Dallek also brilliantly analyzes their dealings with power brokers at home and abroad—including the nightmare of Vietnam, the unprecedented opening to China, détente with the Soviet Union, the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East, the disastrous overthrow of Allende in Chile, and growing tensions between India and Pakistan—while recognizing how both men were continually plotting to distract the American public's attention from the growing scandal of Watergate. With unprecedented detail, Dallek reveals Nixon's erratic behavior during Watergate and the extent to which Kissinger was complicit in trying to help Nixon use national security to prevent his impeachment or resignation.
Illuminating, authoritative, revelatory, and utterly engrossing, Nixon and Kissinger provides a startling new picture of the immense power and sway these two men held in changing world history.
Despite differences in concerns and methods, the pieces collected share crucial ground in how they suggest new ways for thinking about empire, identity, and memory. The authors show how France and the United States set about their competing imperial projects even as residents of the North American West effectively resisted those imperial aims, creating instead their own notions of community and connection. At the same time, these essays show how the contact among peoples created new social configurations and distinct cultural identities. Moving beyond the particulars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, these essays reveal how the Louisiana Purchase subsequently entered into the public consciousness on both sides of the Atlantic in ways that continue to define imperial projects, racial identities, and ethnic communities.
Delineating a unique moment in transatlantic historical conversation, Empires of the Imagination also provides important lessons in cross-disciplinary approaches to North American and Atlantic history. In addition to the multinational perspectives of the authors, individual essays deploy social science history, political culture, and ideological history, as well as social and cultural history, to create a cohesive understanding of diverse experiences.
Contributors:Emily Clark, Tulane University * Laurent Dubois, Duke University * Mark Fernandez, Loyola University, New Orleans * Peter J. Kastor, Washington University in St. Louis * Paul Lachance, University of Ottawa * Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec, Dalhousie University * James E. Lewis Jr., Kalamazoo College * Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia * Jacques Portes, Université de Paris VIII * Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, Université de Paris VII–Denis Diderot * Cécile Vidal, L’ École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales * François Weil, L’ École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales * Richard White, Stanford University