Four Books for the Fourth of July

As Independence Day approaches, many readers annually decide to delve into history and discover the political intrigue and bold recklessness that led to the founding of the United States.

With that in mind here’s a list of four recommended reads about the Revolutionary War and the establishing of a new republic.

The First Salute by Barbara Tuchman

Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Tuchman’s final book, published in 1988, offers a more expanded viewpoint of the American movement towards independence.

In it, she contends that the American Revolution was part of a larger drama, one which found England in a series of ongoing conflicts with the Dutch and French, and how these skirmishes came back to haunt England in their effort to hold onto the Colonies.

She also examines how the decisions (good and bad) made by the leadership of England and the American upstarts pushed both parties onto a collision course.

Peeling back the diplomacy and political intrigue of the time The First Salute also digs in its heels to give readers a concise military history of the Revolutionary War, recounting how the ragtag Americans (with aid from the Dutch and French) overthrew the establishment and won their sovereignty.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis

Concisely packed in its pages, Founding Brothers looks at the lives and motivations of the founding fathers that guided the United States in the postwar era.

Collectively brilliant, yet each with his own foibles, egos and aspirations, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison somehow set everything aside to form a new nation.

Free from the yoke of imperialism they now must make a new nation.

Ellis also examines how doing this required a lot of backbiting, dealing, compromise and innovation on the important issues of the times facing these men, each of whom played a part in the Revolutionary War.

Setting politics aside, Ellis also probes how the American founding was deeply personal to those who participated in it. Bound by morals, character and their individual passions, the Founding Fathers were complex men who weeded through complex issues to build something completely new.

1776 by David McCullough

Contrary to popular thought 1776 was not the best year in American history. It was a strenuous year that saw the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the siege of Boston, the anguishing Battle of Brooklyn and George Washington retreating from New Jersey under the cover of darkness.

At its heart the book is also vivid depiction of the motivations for King George III resisting American Independence as he desperately clings to the notion that the status quo can be restored.

1776 also chronicles George Washington’s rise to power. As McCullough explains his ascension stems mostly from necessity than pre-planning as the Colonials face increasing insurmountable odds. It is against this backdrop of failure and frustration that Washington’s greatness emerges.

A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution by Theodore Draper

Those wanting to delve deeper into the American Revolution should check out Draper’s book. Inside it he examines the socio-economic factors that plunged the two sides towards confrontation while also emphasizing the resiliency of the American cause for freedom following years of subservianism.

In addition to Draper’s meticulous contextualization of every facet of the conflict there is also a lot of focus on each sides military tactics and how they shaped the inevitable outcome of the war. Particularly how Britain’s high-powered generals were outwitted and out maneuvered by ragtag militias and leaders who were literally creating tactics on the fly.

A noted political journalist, Draper applies his craft of analyzing policy making to the 18th century. In doing this readers get a clearer picture of how this unique epoch in history shaped the modern world while also examining the quintessential reasons for why the Revolutionary War and subsequent founding of America occurred.

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