New York State Library &
Friends of the NYS Library
|Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian
December 2, 2004
4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar
Standish Room, New Library
8:00 p.m. Reading
NYS Museum, Cultural Education Ctr
Madison Avenue, Downtown Albany
Joseph Ellis, eminent historian, is widely praised for his ability to bring fresh insight to the well-known lives of the leaders of the American Revolution. Ellis received the National Book Award for his 1997 biography, "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson," a discerning, balanced portrait of an enigmatic president. In 2001, Ellis received the Pulitzer Prize for "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation" (2000), a work that presents intimate, analytical studies of eight larger-than-life figures, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and James Madison.
Ellis's newest book is "His Excellency: George Washington" (Knopf, Nov 2004, ISBN 1-4000-4031-0), a penetrating biography of the nearly-crowned first president. The book, which attempts to "bring to life in all his complexity the most important and perhaps least understood figure in American history," will receive a monumental first printing of 500,000 copies.
"a magisterial account of the life and times of George Washington, celebrating the heroic image of the president whom peers like Jefferson and Madison recognized as 'their unquestioned superior' while acknowledging his all-too-human qualities." - "Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
"Mr. Ellis gives us a succinct character study while drawing on his extensive knowledge of Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary history to strip away the accretions of myth and contemporary extemporizing that have grown up around his subject. . . . the resulting book yields an incisive portrait of the man, not the marble statue." - Michicko Kakutani, "New York Times"
In a review of "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation" that appeared in the "New York Times Book Review," Benson Bobrick said, "This is a splendid book--humane, learned, written with flair and radiant with a calm intelligence and wit. Even those familiar with 'the Revolutionary generation' will… find much in its pages to captivate and enlarge their understanding of our nation's fledgling years." Writing in the "Wall Street Journal," Jay Winik said, "Where [Ellis] most excels is in his enthusiasm as a historian. It is infectious. Like an energetic tour guide or a dedicated detective, he clearly loves the task of seeking out the facts and bringing an illuminating story alive."
In a "New Leader" review of "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson," Henry Graff said, "We are given a scintillating view of Jefferson's life appropriate for our time--thanks to the author's conviction that historical figures must be appraised by the standards of their own day too, not simply those of a later period and cultural outlook…. Ellis treats his subject with respect, but also with a certain wariness that readers possessing a modern political sophistication will find refreshing."
Other books by Ellis include "What the Declaration Declared" (1999), "The Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams" (1993), "After the Revolution: Profiles of Early American Culture" (1979), "School for Soldiers: West Point and the Profession of Arms" (1974), and "The New England Mind in Transition: A Life of Samuel Johnson, 1969-1772."
Ellis has taught in the history department at Mount Holyoke College since 1972.