Dr Daniel J. Boorstin


Dr. Daniel J. Boorstin (1914- ) holds many honorable positions
and has received numerous awards for his notable work. He is one
of America\'s most eminent historians, the author of more than
fifteen books and numerous articles on the history of the United
States, as well as a creator of a television show. His editor-
wife, Ruth Frankel Boorstin, a Wellesley graduate, has been his
close collaborator.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Oklahoma, he received his
undergraduate degree with highest honors from Harvard and his
doctor\'s degree from Yale. He has spent a great deal of his life
abroad, first in England as a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College,
Oxford. More recently he has been visiting professor of American
History at the University of Rome, Italy, the University of
Geneva, Switzerland, and at Kyoto University, Japan. He was the
first incumbent of the chair of American History at the Sorbonne,
and was the Professor of American History and Institutions as
well as Fellow of Trinity College, at Cambridge University. He
has been director of the National Museum of American History and
the Librarian of Congress Emeritus. He is a member of the
Massachusetts Bar and has practiced law. He has received more
than fifty honorary degrees and has been honored by the
governments of France, Belgium and Portugal. In 1989 he received
the National Book Award for Distinguished Contributions to
American Letters by the NationalBook Foundation.

Dr. Boorstin\'s many books include the trilogy The Americans: The
Colonial Experience, which won the Bancroft Prize, The Americans:
The National Experience, which won the Parkman Prize, and The
Americans: The Democratic Experience, which won the Pulitzer
Prize. His 1983 work, The Discoverers, a best selling history of
man\'s search to know the world and himself, was awarded the
Watson Davis Prize of the History of Science Society. His other
works include The Mysterious Science of Law, The Genius of
American Politics, and The Republic of Technology. In addition,
he is the editor of An American Primer and the thirty volume
series The Chicago History of American Civilization. His books
have been translated into twenty-five languages (GBN Reviews,
1997).

Most of Dr. Boorstin\'s books are not written as conventional
chronological histories. Instead, their brief chapters explore
many disparate facets of American culture. The topics which he
covers range from the new grammar, the rise of the candy bar
and the moon landing, to the development of the cash register
(Minskoff, 1973). He does not relate those facts simply because
they are themselves interesting, amusing and enlightening -
though they are that, too. He uses them all to help ask the
questions that he strives to answer in most of his books: What
has life come to mean and cease to mean to the late- twentieth
century Americans? He makes history into a kind of national
autobiography, reminding the people that they have made
themselves what theyare.

Dr. Boorstin\'s most known book is probably The Americans:
The Democratic Experience. The democracy that is described in
this book has little to do with majority rule and minority
rights. It is a full scale portrait of modern America, which
describes not only the major events that were vital to the
nation\'s history, but the countless and little-noticed
revolutions, which occurred not on battlefields but in people\'s
homes, farms, factories, schools and stores. These revolutions
make something surprising and unprecedented of everyday
experience. He shows that the Americans have become a nation
which is held together by what its members buy, the advertising
they see, defined by how they count themselves and how others
count them, characterized by the way they describe their wealth
or poverty. The endless streams of property created by the
American corporation, the new ambiguity of ownership in a nation
of franchised outlets, and the new democracy of packaging, in
which the wrapping of items often costs more than their contents,
in Dr. Boorstin\'s words, add up to the "thinner life of
things"(Boorstin,1973). The quest for novelty has brought, along
with its rewards, a new bewilderment over what people really mean
by something new. The very idea of progress is displaced by the
rate of growth. According to Dr. Boorstin, all of that adds up to
the Democratic Experience. This book aims at a balanced
assessment of the price and the promise of what American
civilization has done with and for and to Americans.

The book\'s anecdotal style makes it a great reading experience.
However, Boorstin omits many happenings that had a great impact
on American culture, such as the labor movement and the Vietnam
War. Boorstin may "dislike important events"(Mohs,1973). However,
those two events are too important for any historian to ignore.