Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943


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In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes

The Making of American Nationalism, 1776–1820

David Waldstreicher

Cloth ISBN 9780807823842

Paper ISBN 9780807846919

Copyright 1997 by the University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  Jamestown Prize (1995)

Visit the University of North Carolina Press web page for this book.

Waldstreicher’s brilliant study brings ideological abstractions down to the streets; it links political mobilization to the emergence of collective identities in the early republic. Perpetual Fetes will transform the way we think about the origins and development of American political culture. . . . An exciting contribution to the new literature on the social construction of national identities. A major achievement.

--Peter S. Onuf

Cultural history at its best, Perpetual Fetes examines the complex interplay between the new bourgeois press, elite fetes, popular festivals, and street theater. Carefully, creatively, it traces the ways warring groups of ‘Founding Fathers’ deployed the press and festivals, singly and collectively, to constitute a new nation and a new American ‘people,’ battling all the time over whose bodies were legitimate members of the American body politic.

--Carroll Smith-Rosenberg

America’s numerous celebrations, pageants, and parades may seem to be little more than patriotic rituals of assent. David Waldstreicher knows better. He shows how the early republic’s festivals actually helped create American nationalism, not out of bland consensus but out of intense conflict over America’s destiny. An excellent and important work.

--Sean Wilentz

David Waldstreicher's In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes is enormously ambitious in its attempt to explain the origins of American nationalism, not as ideology simply and abstractly, but as popular political practice. Its complex arguments, deep research, and brilliant analysis . . . should transform the way we think about nationalism and national identity. . . . A major achievement . . . it sets the agenda and the standard for future work on American nationalism and political culture.

--Journal of American History

Standard reading just three years after publication . . . [this book] is on its way to becoming a pivotal work in early American history. . . . A highly original work of political history.

--William and Mary Quarterly

A book that demands the attention of specialists in the early American republic, and of social and cultural historians more generally. . . . Graduate students and serious scholars of the early republic will find much of value here.

--Journal of Social History

Anyone interested in the early history of the United States, the history of American journalism, or the development of American nationalism, will benefit from reading this book.

--Georgia Historical Quarterly

A remarkable explication of the development of the political culture of the new American nation.


Waldstreicher combines cultural theory with fresh research, graceful writing, and a defined subject matter. It is the last three that separate him from others in the field.

--American Studies

A very readable, extremely competent, thought provoking book, which should be read by all who have an interest in the development of American nationalism.

--American Studies