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Inventing Ethan Allen
John J. Duffy, H. Nicholas Muller, III

2014 • 304 pp. 33 illus., 4 tables 6 x 9"
New England History / American Revolutionary War / Historical Biography

$29.95 Paperback, 978-1-61168-554-1
$27.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-555-8

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Now come two venerable historians with yet another portrait — not just of the man in all his complexity, but of his evolving, grandiose reputation and how it served the purposes... [continued in Reviews below]”—Burlington Free Press

A fascinating look at the genesis, longevity, and meaning of the story of Ethan Allen in the context of Vermont history and memory

Since 1969, Ethan Allen has been the subject of three biographical studies, all of which indulge in sustaining and revitalizing the image of Allen as a physically imposing Vermont yeoman, a defender of the rights of Americans, an eloquent military hero, and a master of many guises, from rough frontiersman to gentleman philosopher.

Seeking the authentic Ethan Allen, the authors of this volume ask: How did that Ethan Allen secure his place in popular culture? As they observe, this spectacular persona leaves little room for a more accurate assessment of Allen as a self-interested land speculator, rebellious mob leader, inexperienced militia officer, and truth-challenged man who would steer Vermont into the British Empire.

Drawing extensively from the correspondence in Ethan Allen and his Kin and a wide range of historical, political, and cultural sources, Duffy and Muller analyze the factors that led to Ethan Allen’s two-hundred-year-old status as the most famous figure in Vermont’s past. Placing facts against myths, the authors reveal how Allen acquired and retained his iconic image, how the much-repeated legends composed after his death coincide with his life, why recollections of him are synonymous with the story of Vermont, and why some Vermonters still assign to Allen their own cherished and idealized values.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

"Now come two venerable historians with yet another portrait — not just of the man in all his complexity, but of his evolving, grandiose reputation and how it served the purposes of the writers, their society, and the state that became invested in a conflation of history and legend.
Inventing Ethan Allen, by John J. Duffy and Nicholas Muller III, published by the University of New England, takes a hard look at what is known about Ethan Allen, from the documentary record, and what was written speculatively about him. Ultimately, they argue, it was a 19th-century "confection" that elevated him to heroic, bigger-than-life status and that helped make him the namesake of everything from a furniture company to a think tank." —Burlington Free Press

“With solid research Duffy and Muller convince readers that many facts were lost in the fictional depiction of Allen. . . .This study contributes immensely to our understanding of the cult of the Vermont hero and heroes in general.” —Journal of American History

“What? Ethan Allen wasn’t everything we’ve come to believe? Duffy and Muller make the eye-opening case that the Hero of Ticonderoga, the defender of the New Hampshire Grants, and the patriot whose name and image adorn ships, statues, highways, and stores is as much legend as fact. Great Jehovah!”—James H. Douglas, former governor of Vermont

"This is a good book overall, and should appeal to anyone interested in America’s struggle for independence or Vermont history. —H-Net

Inventing Ethan Allen describes in detail the shifting historical images of Vermont’s most famous revolutionary hero. The story Duffy and Muller tell is both complex and entertaining, involving Allen’s own self-promotion, several biographers, the founders of the Vermont Historical Society, state politicians, professional as well as amateur historians, sculptors, and entrepreneurs fond of exploiting Ethan’s fame. The book also gives straightforward summaries of what we know and don’t know about Allen’s life. A must-read for anyone interested in how Vermonters relate to their past.”—Jere Daniell, professor of history emeritus, Dartmouth College

Inventing Ethan Allen is a remarkable achievement: an incisive, scholarly, and often amusing account of both the ‘real’ and the ‘invented’ Ethan Allen. Muller and Duffy, relying on research of extraordinary depth and breadth, have written a probing and witty inquiry into the never-ending struggle between the unsettling facts of the past and the enduring power of myth.”—Dona Brown, professor of history, University of Vermont

“Duffy and Muller help readers better understand Vermont’s most famous citizen and how contemporary society impacts historians, their writing and the need for critical historical inquiry."—Journal of the American Revolution

“Inventing Ethan Allen is a watershed book of tremendous importance. Two of Vermont’s most respected scholars have joined forces to bring Ethan Allen down to size. I believe Vermonters have always suspected that the ‘real’ Ethan Allen put his pants on one leg at a time. But we needed to be told—and to be told in a way that can be believed. Vermont is indebted to Duffy and Muller. Still, the ‘real’ Ethan Allen stands in my mind as one hell of a man: Were I to confront him on the question of his courage, I would be sure to have a grin on my face.”—Frank Bryan, professor emeritus, University of Vermont


Journal of the American Revolution Book Award (2014) Commendation

JOHN J. DUFFY is emeritus professor of English and  Humanities, Vermont State Colleges. H. NICHOLAS MULLER III has served as president of Colby-Sawyer College and dean and professor of history at the University of Vermont. Both have published widely on Vermont topics, including a co-authored monograph, An Anxious Democracy:Aspects of the 1830s.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:07:57 -0500