If you’ve just turned the last page of ‘1776’, you may be yearning for more. David McCullough’s riveting account of a defining year in the American Revolutionary War has that effect. A deep dive into the courage, determination, and sheer force of will exhibited by those who dared to challenge the world’s then leading superpower, ‘1776’ leaves us with a thirst for knowledge about what happened next, and how those monumental events shaped the destiny of America.
That’s precisely what this blog post aims to quench. Each of the books that follow has been carefully selected to expand your understanding of the Revolution’s key figures, its ripple effects, and even the viewpoints that opposed it.
Whether you’re keen to delve into more McCullough masterpieces, uncover the personal lives of our Founding Fathers, or see the Revolution from a British perspective, there’s a book here for you.
Enjoy the journey, and happy reading!
The journey after ‘1776’ is filled with explorations of monumental events, intimate peeks into the lives of the nation’s founders, and insightful examinations of the Revolution’s far-reaching implications. Here are some carefully curated book recommendations to satiate your thirst for more.
“John Adams” by David McCullough
Delve into another David McCullough masterpiece. This time, the spotlight is on the life and times of John Adams, the second president of the United States. The Pulitzer Prize-winning biography is a brilliant exploration of Adams’s character – his virtues, faults, triumphs, and trials. It paints a comprehensive picture of the man who played a pivotal role in America’s fight for independence and its early years as a nation. Reading ‘John Adams’ provides not only a personal glimpse into the mind of this key figure but also his relationship with contemporaries like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.
“Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer
Step into the shoes of George Washington with this riveting book. David Hackett Fischer’s ‘Washington’s Crossing’ offers a meticulously researched account of the daring Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River. The book goes beyond the iconic event to delve into the ensuing battles of Trenton and Princeton. It paints a vivid picture of the Continental Army’s transformation under Washington’s leadership. ‘Washington’s Crossing’ amplifies your understanding of the American Revolution, exploring it from the perspective of both the leaders and the common soldiers.
“The Federalist Papers” by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
Venture into the minds of the founding fathers as they wrestle with the design of a new government. ‘The Federalist Papers’ is a collection of 85 articles and essays written under the pseudonym “Publius”. They defended the Constitution and the principles upon which the American government was built. By reading this, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of the ideological foundations of American governance, straight from those who laid the groundwork.
“Common Sense” by Thomas Paine
Take a step back in time, before ‘1776’, to the pamphlet that fueled the American Revolution. ‘Common Sense’ by Thomas Paine was a clarion call for independence from British rule. It broke down complex arguments into language that was clear to the average colonist, inspiring the masses to join the fight for freedom. Reading ‘Common Sense’ gives a firsthand experience of the compelling rhetoric that fanned the flames of revolution.
Biographies: Getting Personal
Behind the political ideals and tumultuous events of the American Revolution, there were individuals, each with their unique personalities, motivations, and dilemmas. These recommended biographies provide fascinating insights into the lives of two such individuals, painting a more intimate picture of the era.
“Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow
Alexander Hamilton’s life was as turbulent and eventful as the era he lived in. Ron Chernow’s ‘Alexander Hamilton’ is an engaging biography of this influential founding father. It covers his incredible journey from an orphaned child in the Caribbean to a pivotal player in the American Revolution and the formation of the American government. This book provides insights into his strategic mind, his contentious relationships with other founding fathers, and the scandalous events that marked his personal life. Reading this biography allows you to view the American Revolution through Hamilton’s unique lens.
“Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power” by Jon Meacham
Thomas Jefferson is often considered a paradoxical figure – a champion of liberty who owned slaves, a man of great intellect who was constantly in debt. Jon Meacham’s ‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power’ delves into the complexities of Jefferson’s character and his approach to power. It covers his roles as a statesman, architect, president, and scientist, along with his personal life and relationships. The book provides an understanding of Jefferson’s ideals, the compromises he made, and the impact he had on the formation of America. By diving into this biography, you gain a deep insight into one of the most influential figures of the Revolution.
Perspective: Understanding The Other Side
The American Revolution was a time of complex viewpoints and multi-faceted narratives. Understanding the viewpoints that opposed the revolutionaries or highlighted lesser-known aspects can provide a richer, more balanced perspective of the era. Here are two books that explore such alternative narratives.
“The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding” by Eric Nelson
Understanding the loyalist perspective adds another layer to our understanding of the American Revolution. Eric Nelson’s ‘The Royalist Revolution’ presents an intriguing argument that many of the patriots actually saw themselves as defenders of the British monarchy’s rights against parliamentary encroachment, rather than rebels against the king. It provides a fresh perspective on the ideological underpinnings of the revolution, and the ways in which they shaped the newly emerging American political structure.
“The Many Headed Hydra” by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker
‘The Many Headed Hydra’ takes us on a unique journey into the overlooked aspects of the colonial period. Authors Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker argue that the real revolution was not just a fight against Britain, but also a struggle against the restrictive social structure of the old world. They highlight the role of sailors, slaves, laborers, and other marginalized groups who played a crucial role in shaping the revolutionary era. Reading this book provides a wider lens through which to view the revolutionary period, bringing to light the interconnected social struggles that accompanied the fight for political independence.
The Global View: Wider Impact of the Revolution
The American Revolution didn’t just reshape one nation; it sent shockwaves around the world. These recommended books provide a broader perspective on the global implications of the Revolution, offering insight into its impact and influence beyond American shores.
“The Radicalism of the American Revolution” by Gordon S. Wood
The Revolution wasn’t merely a change of government; it was a social and cultural upheaval that fundamentally transformed America. In ‘The Radicalism of the American Revolution’, Gordon S. Wood argues that the Revolution was one of the most radical and far-reaching events in history. He delves into how it dismantled centuries-old social hierarchies and replaced them with ideals of equality and democracy. This Pulitzer Prize-winning work gives you a broader understanding of the sweeping changes brought about by the Revolution, and how they continue to influence modern-day America and the world.
“Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence” by Joseph J. Ellis
The summer of 1776 was a turning point in history. In ‘Revolutionary Summer’, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph J. Ellis explores the events of these crucial months, both on the battlefield and in the Continental Congress. He portrays how the decision for independence was made and the pivotal military strategies that played out. Ellis goes beyond the American borders, showing how the Revolution was viewed by the British and the French, thereby putting it in an international context. By reading this book, you’ll appreciate how a single summer shaped the course of world history.
Here are more captivating books that will enrich your understanding of the American Revolution and the era that surrounded it. Each book has been selected to complement your journey post-‘1776’.
“Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution” by Nathaniel Philbrick
Philbrick vividly depicts the events leading up to the Revolutionary War, the battles that followed, and their impact on the city of Boston. This book is recommended for its immersive narration and comprehensive coverage of these pivotal events.
“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson
Isaacson’s biography provides a compelling portrayal of Benjamin Franklin, a polymath who had significant influence in the Revolutionary era. It’s recommended for its insightful exploration of Franklin’s dynamic personality and numerous contributions.
“The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” by H.W. Brands
This biography, another excellent look at Franklin, is thorough and engaging. It’s recommended for anyone interested in Franklin’s role in shaping America’s philosophy and political infrastructure.
“Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different” by Gordon S. Wood
Wood presents engaging sketches of the key players in the Revolutionary era. It’s recommended for a quick yet enlightening peek into what made the founders unique and influential.
“American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson” by Joseph J. Ellis
This book focuses on the enigmatic personality of Thomas Jefferson. Ellis delves into the contradictions and complexities of Jefferson’s character. It’s recommended for a deeper understanding of this multifaceted founding father.
“Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation” by Joseph J. Ellis
Ellis explores the intertwined lives of the founding fathers, and how their relationships impacted the fate of the United States. It’s recommended for its engaging narrative and thoughtful analysis of the Revolutionary generation.
“The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789” by Robert Middlekauff
Middlekauff offers a detailed narrative of the American Revolution, from the end of the French and Indian War to the election of George Washington. It’s recommended for a comprehensive understanding of the entire Revolutionary era.
“Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution” by Benson Bobrick
Bobrick provides a comprehensive account of the American Revolution. It’s recommended for its rich details and vibrant narrative style that brings the Revolution to life.
“The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” by Bernard Bailyn
Bailyn explores the ideological underpinnings that led to the Revolution. It’s recommended for readers interested in the intellectual history that fueled the Revolution.
“Paul Revere’s Ride” by David Hackett Fischer
Fischer tells the true story of Paul Revere’s famous ride, offering new insights into an iconic event of the Revolution. It’s recommended for its detailed research and exciting storytelling.
The American Revolution was a multi-dimensional event that reshaped not only a nation, but also the world. These recommended reads offer various perspectives, each providing unique insights into the Revolution’s key figures, its far-reaching implications, and even the viewpoints that opposed it.
From the masterful storytelling of David McCullough’s ‘John Adams’ and the engrossing details of George Washington’s leadership in ‘Washington’s Crossing’, to the global impacts explored in ‘The Radicalism of the American Revolution’ and ‘Revolutionary Summer’, these books extend the journey started by ‘1776’.
Biographies such as ‘Alexander Hamilton’ and ‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power’ offer a personal glimpse into the minds of key figures. And for those seeking a different perspective, ‘The Royalist Revolution’ and ‘The Many Headed Hydra’ present alternative narratives that enrich our understanding of the era.
The adventure of exploration doesn’t stop with ‘1776’. The more we delve into this defining period, the deeper our appreciation grows for the courage, determination, and intellect that fueled the birth of a nation.
Happy reading and continued discovery!