Fischer, David Hackett 1935-
Fischer, David Hackett 1935-
PERSONAL: Born December 2, 1935, in Baltimore, MD; son of John Henry and Norman (Frederick) Fischer; married Judith Hummel, 1960; children: Susan F., Anne W. Education: Princeton University, A.B., 1958; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1962. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Lutheran.
ADDRESSES: Home—36 Rich Valley Rd., Wayland, MA. Office—Brandeis University, MS 036, 415 South St., Waltham, MA 02454.
CAREER: Historian, educator, and writer. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, assistant professor, 1962–65, associate professor, 1965–70, professor, 1970–72, Western Professor of History, 1972–, and University Professor. Harvard University, visiting lecturer, 1964–65; University of Washington, Seattle, visiting professor, 1975.
MEMBER: American Historical Association, American Antiquarian Society, Institute of Early American History and Culture, Hakluyt Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize for history, 2005, for Washington's Crossing.
The Revolution of American Conservatism, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, Harper (New York, NY), 1970.
Growing Old in America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1977.
Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
America: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.
(With James C. Kelly) Away, I'm Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, Virginia Historical Society (Richmond, VA), 1993, revised edition published as Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, University Press of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA), 2000.
Paul Revere's Ride, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Washington's Crossing, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: In the 1960s David Hackett Fischer began an ambitious project to create what he hoped would be a multi-volume cultural history of America. He was inspired at the outset by what was then touted as a new perspective on writing history—one that focused less on the description and interpretation of events using documentary evidence and other primary sources, and more on the solving of problems using logic and empirical argument. In Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, Fischer suggested, according to New Republic contributor Gordon S. Wood, "that nearly every major historian in the twentieth century writing about the origins of early America has gotten it wrong." Fischer has dedicated the bulk of his writing and research to countering those so-called errors.
Albion's Seed challenges the commonly held view that the New World developed a cultural ambience that clearly differentiated it from its European roots. The author points instead to the New World's similarities to Europe, and how various cultural groups scattered across the new landscape, each adapting to its specific surroundings to create distinct regional cultures. Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, which Fischer cowrote with James C. Kelly, is a revised edition of an exhibition catalog titled Away, I'm Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement. In it, the authors explain how cultural adaptation occurred in one place and then spread westward as different groups crossed the frontier for various reasons, carrying with them the culture of the region and adapting it further to fit their own needs. Elizabeth A. Perkins, writing in the Journal of Southern History, noted that "all students of southern and migration history should welcome this comprehensive examination of Virginia's settlement and westward expansion, which is solidly grounded in primary sources and addresses a vibrant secondary literature."
In Paul Revere's Ride, the author presents his case that historians have neglected scholarly studies of the famous American figure of the Revolutionary War. The author sets out to rectify this neglect with a detailed account of Revere's midnight ride. In 1775, Revere traveled on horseback in the dead of night to warn the people of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, about the oncoming British army. "An illuminating look at the beginning of the American Revolution," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. Calling the book a "fascinating historiographical essay," Christopher Grasso, writing in the Historian, also noted: "The best passages convey the experience of ordinary people in extraordinary situations." An American Heritage contributor commented that the "splendid new book is satisfying on every level from adventure tale to civics lesson."
The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History focuses on four significant price revolutions from the Middle Ages to the modern era. Fischer's primary interest is how these revolutions, such as an episode of high inflation in the eighteenth century, caused political and social turmoil. Writing in the Journal of World History, Andre Gunder Frank commented that the book "offers a gold mine of useful information if the reader is prepared to mine and refine it." History Today contributor Michael Collins noted that the best aspect of the book "is in the broad sweep of its subject matter and in the engaging narrative style which dispenses with the traditional dusty prose of the professional and substitutes a more direct and dramatic manner which makes the subject accessible to layman and student alike." David Rouse, writing in Booklist, noted the author's "absorbing narrative analysis."
In Washington's Crossing, Fischer returns to an examination of the Revolutionary War in America. He specifically examines how George Washington proved himself a true leader of the Continental Army beyond his title of commander-in-chief of the forces. "The author describes how the events during the Revolutionary War affected the future direction of the world," wrote Robert Previdi in Parameters. "It was Washington who understood better than anyone that if our War of Independence failed, the absence of individual freedom and the idea of self-government would be stalled." Previdi went on to note: "This book is a wonderful contribution to our understanding about our founding period and about General George Washing-ton." Marc Arkin, writing in the New Criterion, commented that "this is one of the most engaging—even exciting—works of history that I have read in years."
Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas compares the title concepts from a cultural rather than a traditional historical perspective, tracing their growth from ideas founded in classical times to the realities that they represent today. "Not simply a work of political history, Liberty and Freedom is a chronicle of what Professor Fischer calls the 'folkways of freedom,' the customs, beliefs, and traditions of a free people," wrote Arkin in the New Criterion. Arkin went on to comment that the book is "a monumental achievement and an extraordinary work of history." Library Journal contributor Jack Forman called Liberty and Freedom "an important and thought-provoking synthesis of historical analysis and cultural commentary that is accessible to lay readers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Heritage, July-August, 1994, review of Paul Revere's Ride, p. 104.
American Prospect, April, 2005, James A. Morone, review of Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas, p. 60.
Booklist, October 1, 1996, David Rouse, review of The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History, p. 311; February 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 946; November 15, 2004, Vernon Ford, review of Liberty and Freedom, p. 537; January 1, 2005, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 767.
Business History Review, summer, 1997, Wyatt Wells, review of The Great Wave, p. 337.
Foreign Affairs, July-August, 1997, Paul Krugman, review of The Great Wave, p. 136; January-February, 2005, Walter Russell Mead, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 187.
Historian, summer, 1995, Christopher Grasso, review of Paul Revere's Ride, p. 792.
History: Review of New Books, spring, 1997, Nancy M. Gordon, review of The Great Wave, p. 141; spring, 2000, Christopher E. Hendricks, review of Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, p. 106.
History Today, December, 1997, Michael Collins, review of The Great Wave, p. 57.
Journal of Southern History, February, 2003, Elizabeth A. Perkins, review of Bound Away, p. 153.
Journal of World History, spring, 2002, Andre Gunder Frank, review of The Great Wave, p. 199.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2003, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 1389.
Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Robert Flatley, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 106; February 1, 2005, Jack Forman, review of Liberty and Freedom, p. 97.
National Review, April 5, 2004, Michael Knox Beran, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 45; January 31, 2005, Michael Knox Beran, review of Liberty and Freedom, p. 51.
New Criterion, May, 2004, Marc Arkin, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 66; June, 2005, Marc Arkin, review of Liberty and Freedom, p. 81.
New Republic, October 30, 1989, Gordon S. Wood, review of Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, p. 27.
Parameters, spring, 2005, Robert Previdi, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 149.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 1994, review of Paul Revere's Ride, p. 66; January 12, 2004, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 49; April 5, 2004, Andrew Richard Albanese, "Crossings Then and Now: David Hackett Fischer" (interview), p. 33; November 15, 2004, review of Liberty and Freedom, p. 56.
Reason, August-September, 1997, Gregory Clark, review of The Great Wave, p. 68.
School Library Journal, May, 2004, Judy McAloon, review of Washington's Crossing, p. 176.
U.S. News & World Report, December 4, 1989, Alvin P. Sanoff, review of Albion's Seed, p. 60.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (February 21, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Washington's Crossing.
American Historical Association, http://www.historians.org/ (February 21, 2006), "David Hackett Fischer Receives Pulitzer Prize."
Brandeis University Department of History Web site, http://www.brandeis.edu/departments/history/ (February 21, 2006), faculty profile of author.
Brothers Judd,http://www.brothersjudd.com/ (February 21, 2006), review of Washington's Crossing.