Gordon S. Wood

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For other people named Gordon Wood, see Gordon Wood (disambiguation).
Gordon Stewart Wood[1]
Gordon Wood historian 2006.jpg
Gordon Wood in 2006
Born (1933-11-27) November 27, 1933 (age 81)
Concord, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Fields History
Institutions College of William and Mary
Harvard University
University of Michigan
Brown University
Cambridge University
Northwestern University School of Law
Alma mater Harvard University
Tufts University
Doctoral advisor Bernard Bailyn
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize (1993)
Bancroft Prize (1970)
National Humanities Medal (2010)

Gordon S. Wood (born November 27, 1933) 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. In 2010, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.


Youth and education[edit]

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 U.S. 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.


Wood received his Ph.D. in 1964. He has taught at Harvard, the College of William and Mary, the University of Michigan, Brown, Cambridge University (Pitt Professor), and in 1982–83 he lectured for One Day 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.

Marriage and family[edit]

Wood married the former Louise Goss, April 30, 1956. They have three children: Christopher, Elizabeth and Amy.[1] Two went into history: their son, Christopher Wood, is a professor of art history at Yale University and their daughter, Amy Louise Wood, is a professor of history at Illinois State University.

In popular culture[edit]

The Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, publicly and effusively praised Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution, though Gingrich erroneously called 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."[2]

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 notes is plagiarized from Daniel Vickers' Farmers and Fishermen: Two Centuries of Work in Essex County.

In the episode, "The Gang Reignites the Rivalry," of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie Kelly, trying to emulate Good Will Hunting, accuses a group of students of "regurgitating Gaud and Wood."


  • Book contributions
    • Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture, edited by Peter Onuf and Jan Lewis, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1999
    • To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidency, edited by James M. McPherson, Society of American Historians (New York, NY), 2000.


  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. ^ National Cable Satellite Corporation (21 April 2002). "Booknotes". Transcript of an interview with Wood by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN's Booknotes. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 

External links[edit]