Read the Revolution

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

Revolutionary Backlash book
December 9, 2015

Born for Liberty

For women, the Revolutionary War resulted in more than American Independence, it became a watershed moment for the development of women's political expression. Rosemarie Zagarri’s Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic, is a study of the emergence, and eventual suppression of female political activity during and after the American Revolution. Zagarri concludes that the increased political activities of women during the Revolutionary period produced a backlash in their political participation in the 19th century, but set the stage for women’s popular participation in other forms, such as benevolent societies and social reform organizations.

The following excerpt explains how political leaders asked for women’s contributions in helping the Revolutionary cause and how women came to understand their own patriotism.

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November 18, 2015

Forged in Philadelphia

Growing up in Philadelphia, author Rebecca Eckfeldt Gibby frequently heard an intriguing story about her ancestor, Adam Eckfeldt. According to family lore, Eckfeldt produced the first coins for the United States with silver donated by Martha Washington! Was it true? Gibby’s drive to uncover the history of her Revolutionary-era ancestor led her to write this engaging work of juvenile fiction. It is a perfect holiday gift for young history lovers.

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November 11, 2015

The Last Muster

At the time of the invention of photography in 1839, America’s aged Revolutionary generation was quickly passing away. Historians and photographers sought to capture the images and stories of veterans and those who lived through that momentous period. Author Maureen Taylor’s book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation, complied over fifty extant nineteenth-century photographs and shares known biographical information for each person.

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October 27, 2015

Our Declaration

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia declared the United States a free and independent nation. Author Danielle Allen examines the Declaration of Independence, the document’s current day relevance, and the relationship between freedom and equality in her book entitled, Our Declaration.

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October 14, 2015

Epic Journeys of Freedom

Enslaved African Americans in North America found themselves in an unusual situation during the War for American Independence. The new American Republic touted liberty and freedom, but this did not extend to all members of society. Cassandra Pybus personalizes the wartime stories of black men and women who fled their American masters to seek freedom, and traces their footsteps around the globe.

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September 29, 2015

American Spring

Walter R. Borneman's book American Spring looks at the first six months of 1775. As political tensions between the colonial resistance and the British Government grew into military violence, ordinary people faced dramatic and profound decisions. Which side would an individual support as the conflict deepened and spread, the forces of the government or of the resistance? Would he or she attempt to remain neutral or become an active supporter, perhaps even by taking up arms?

As thousands of Americans faced these decisions, leaders on both sides of the argument took up their pens. The newspaper and pamphlet debate in British America during the political crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s produced a rich and complex variety of arguments. In this section, Borneman discusses one particular strain of this debate, between a defender of the government position, Daniel Leonard, and his now-more-famous adversary, John Adams, who advocated the position of the resistance.

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September 15, 2015

Williamsburg Gunpowder Incident

The Revolutionary era's newspapers are rich with stories of the major and minor conflicts that inspired the American Revolution. In Reporting the Revolutionary War, Todd Andrlik publishes an array of these fascinating news stories alongside essays by modern historians. Among them is our assistant curator, Neal Hurst, who wrote this essay about how a British decision to confiscate gunpowder under the cover of night from Williamsburg's magazine provoked outrage and action by the city's patriots.

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August 25, 2015

The Hessian Perspective

The British Crown hired soldiers from six separate "German" states to fight alongside British forces during the War of Independence, with more than half coming from Hesse-Cassel and Hesse-Hanau. In Hessians: Mercenaries, Rebels, and the War for British North America, author Brady J. Crytzer provides a look at the conflict from their perspective. Here, he shares the early experiences of Captain Johann Ewald of the 2nd Jäger Company, who joined the conflict in the fall of 1776.

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August 11, 2015

Women and the War

The War of Independence took a toll on all it touched — men and women, Patriots and Loyalists. In this excerpt from John Ferling's Whirlwind: The American Revolution and the War That Won It, he shows the trials and tribulations women faced during the long conflict.

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July 28, 2015

An Empire on the Edge

On June 9, 1772, a group of Rhode Island colonists attacked and torched the HMS Gaspee, which had been dispatched to the area by the British to enforce maritime trade laws and prevent smuggling. As Nick Bunker describes in his book An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America, this event widened the steadily-growing divisions between the colonists and the Crown.

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