Read the Revolution

curated collection of excerpts from exciting, thought-provoking books about the American Revolution

August 3, 2016

Valiant Ambition

Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution offers an intriguing look at perhaps the two most famous men to emerge from the Revolutionary War-one hailed a hero, the other a villain. The story follows Arnold's fall from one of Washington's greatest generals to America's most legendary traitor. We learn how Arnold's anger after being overlooked for promotion by the Continental Congress, coupled with the loss of his personal fortune and debilitating war injuries, led him to sell his loyalty to the British. Juxtaposed against Arnold's fall is the story of George Washington's rise, and Philbrick portrays the commander in chief as one whose greatest attribute was an "extraordinary ability to learn and improve amid...challenging circumstances."

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July 20, 2016

Benjamin Franklin in London

In George Goodwin's Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America's Founding Father, readers are treated to a colorful and revealing account of Franklin's life on Craven Street–where he enjoyed the pleasantries of the cosmopolitan city and notoriety as an intellectual and a statesman. Goodwin's portrait of Franklin as a proud British citizen transformed into a "reluctant revolutionary," follows his first visit in 1724 to his extended stay from 1757 to 1775 and provides interesting glimpses into his daily habits and political motivations.

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July 6, 2016

The First Congress

The First Congress of the United States met from March of 1789 to March of 1791 and over three sessions, two in New York City and one in Philadelphia, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives effectively “invented” the government that we know today. Dominated by powerful men such as James Madison, Robert Morris, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Ellsworth, the First Congress created the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury, established the Supreme Court, passed the Bill of Rights, launched the first national census, and located the permanent national capital in Washington DC. From the debates between the Federalists and anti-Federalists over Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan to the simple question of how we address president, The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government, by Fergus M. Bordewich offers a compelling story of the First Congress.

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June 22, 2016

The Declaration of Independence

Opening with, "When in the Course of human events..." the Declaration of Independence boldly announced that the Thirteen Colonies were now "Free and Independent States' not just to Great Britain, but to the world in 1776. In the two hundred years since, over 100 other declarations-from Haiti in 1804 to Eritrea in 1993-have announced the independence of nations, regions, and peoples modeled on the ideals and language of independence, sovereignty, and human rights established by the American Declaration. David Armitage's, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History examines how this innovative 18th century document became a political and philosophical model for nations and people across the globe.

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June 8, 2016

Mapping the Revolution

Through a collection of sixty historic maps, Richard H. Brown and Paul E. Cowen's Revolution: Mapping the Road to Independence 1755-1783, charts the shifting territorial claims and geographic strategy behind military campaigns from the Battle of Fort Duquesne at the start of the French and Indian War (1755-63) to the Siege of Yorktown at the end of Revolutionary War.

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May 25, 2016

Patriot Pirates

Containing tales of danger, greed, and patriotism, Robert H. Patton's Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution presents the story of America's seaborne insurgency against British merchant ships and Navy. Privateering, a wartime tactic authorized by Congress and financed by men such as Robert Morris and Nathanael Greene, proved to be a sketchy endeavor for many who took to the high seas to seek their fortunes in an uncertain war.

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May 11, 2016

Founding Gardeners

Ordinarily when we think of the Founding Fathers (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Adams) we picture powdered wigs and quill pens–not experimental farmers examining handfuls of manure with glee. Andrea Wulf’s, Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation, offers us this new lens with which to view the founding generation. Through their opinions on agriculture and their vision for a nation composed of independent farmers, the Founding Fathers perceived brimming gardens and fertile fields as symbols of America’s prosperity and future potential.

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April 27, 2016

Independence Lost

What does the story of the American Revolution look like from the “edge” of empire? How did the various groups and peoples of the Gulf Coast perceive and experience this uncertain period of shifting borders and changing political allegiances? Kathleen Duval’s, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, offers a different look at the American Revolution from this unfamiliar territory. When we broaden our geographic perspective, a global war emerges where the European powers of Spain, France, and Great Britain were vying for territory on the North American continent throughout the last half of the eighteenth century. By weaving together the narrative threads of eight representative characters whose individual choices and motives all differed, Duval challenges the traditional tale of rebel versus loyalist, American liberties versus British liberties.

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American Insurgents, American Patriots
April 13, 2016

American Insurgents, American Patriots

In 1774 a popular insurgency, led by “ordinary Americans” and organized into local committees of safety, was sweeping the Thirteen Colonies. Basing their authority in the Articles of Association, an act passed by the First Continental Congress to enforce a boycott on British goods, these committees of safety helped propel revolution with their own notions of an American ideology and resistance. In American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, T.H. Breen traces the rise of these networks of everyday patriots who used social pressure at the local level to create a shared American sense of purpose.

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Rum Punch and Revolution
March 30, 2016

Rum Punch and Revolution

In Peter Thompson’s, Rum Punch and Revolution: Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia, taverns and public houses function simultaneously as private-public spaces where people of “mixed” backgrounds could mingle, drink, and eat together. (In this case, mixed does not include slaves, apprentices or Native Americas, who were excluded by law from taverns.) This openness in early tavern culture fostered an environment where men and women of varying social rank would gather and participate in a shared political and social discourse. The following excerpt highlights the changing culture surrounding taverns and political life on the eve of the Revolution as delegates to the First Continental Congress gathered at the City Tavern in 1775.

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