Gordon Wood

Gordon Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and the recipient of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution. His book The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 won a 1970 Bancroft Prize, and in 2010, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 2011, he was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama and the Churchill Bell by Colonial Williamsburg.

In 2011, he also received the Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Award from the Society of American Historians. In 2012, he received an award from the John Carter Brown Library and the John F. Kennedy Medal from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Professor Wood is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.


The Making of the Constitution
An analysis of the various forces in the 1780s that led to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 that created the Constitution. It was not simply the weaknesses of the Articles of the Confederation that led to the Constitution; it was also what Madison and others called the excesses of democracy that lay behind the reform

The Revolutionary Origins of the Civil War
An analyis of the diverse ways in which the two sections of North and South developed following the Revolution, each of them appealing to the ideas of the Revolution.

The Invention of the United States
The US was not easily created. People’s loyalities were to their state, not this collection of states. The problem of creating loyalty in 1789 is similar to the problem of creating loyalty to the EU at present.

Why are the Founders Different
This lecture tries to explain the peculiar circumstances that made the founding generation special, and unlikely to be duplicated.

Why was George Washington a Great Man
This lecture explains why Washington was considered the greatest man in the world in the 1780s. He was not just one of the Founders, he dominated them and they all knew it.

The Invention of Benjamin Franklin
This explains Franklin’s career and how be became the great folk hero for Americans.

Additional Programs

  • The Origins of Religious Freedom
  • The Origins of American Capitalism
  • The Origins of the Presidency

Full Biography

Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. He received his B.A. degree from Tufts University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Wood taught at Harvard University and the University of Michigan before joining the faculty at Brown in 1969. He is the author of the Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (1969), which won the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize in 1970, and The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992), which won the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize in 1993.

The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin (2004) was awarded the Julia Ward Howe Prize by the Boston Authors Club in 2005. Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different was published in 2006. The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History was published in 2008.

Wood’s book in the Oxford History of the United States, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 will be published in October 2009. Professor Wood reviews in the New York Review of Books and The New Republc. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Prizes and Awards

  • De Lancey K. Jay Prize, Harvard University, 1963-64.
  • Toppan Prize, Harvard University, 1964.
  • John H. Dunning Prize, American Historical Association, 1970.
  • Nominee for National Book Award in History and Biography, 1970.
  • Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, 1970.
  • Distinguished Visitor Award of the Australian-American Education Foundation, 1976.
  • Kerr Prize for best article in New York History, awarded by New York Historical Society, 1981
  • Daughters of Colonial Wars award for the outstanding article in the William and Mary Quarterly, 1983.
  • Douglass Adair Award, 1984.
  • Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award, 1992.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson Award of Phi Beta Kappa, 1992.
  • Pulitzer Prize in History, 1993.
  • Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, 2000.
  • Doctor of Letters, LaTrobe University, Australia, 2001.
  • Julia Ward Howe Prize from the Boston Authors Club, 2005


  • History of the Early Republic, Sping 2006
  • American Colonial History-Spring 2007
  • American Revolution-Spring 2008

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