Reconsidering William Cooper’s Town

Fifteenth Annual Robert C. Baron Lecture

By Alan Taylor

Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT

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When the book William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic appeared in 1995, it deftly combined social history, biography, and literary analysis to explore the business and political career of James Fenimore Cooper’s father and the development of the western-New York frontier region of Otsego County. William Cooper’s Town won the Bancroft and the Pulitzer Prizes for history. The book charts the rise and fall of the elder Cooper’s financial and political fortunes and examines how these impacted the literary ambitions and career of his son. It also describes the shifting political landscape as the nascent nation developed and then redefined ideals of republican gentility and democratic power. In this talk, Alan Taylor will examine the genesis of this book and its impact on scholarship and society since it was first published.

Alan Taylor has won two Pulitzer Prizes and the Bancroft Prize for history and was a finalist for the National Book Award. A leading historian of early American history, Taylor is currently the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is also the author of Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier 1760–1820 (1990); American Colonies: The Settling of North America, Vol. 1 2001); Writing Early American History (2005); The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (2006); The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (2010); The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia (2013); American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750–1804 (2016); and Thomas Jefferson's Education (2019). Elected to the American Antiquarian Society in 1995, Taylor served as the AAS-Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence during the 2000–01 academic year.

This the fifteenth annual Baron Lecture, which honors Robert C. Baron, the founder and president of Fulcrum Publishing. Baron is a historian, scientist, and the author or contributor to over twenty-five books. He was elected an AAS member in 1989 and led the Society as chair of the Council from 1993 to 2003.

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