This bookshelf is comprised of recommended materials that have increased our understanding of the American Revolution. I’ve read/watched/listened to each one of these personally.

Bookshelf: Books


by David McCullough

1776 by David McCulloughThe name really says it all. The year 1776 is the year Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. David McCullough is a wonderful storyteller who tells things as they are, yet keeps things interesting. He mostly focuses on the state of the Continental Army during what is arguably the most important year in American History.Impeccably researched and well-written, 1776 is a great place to start in learning about the Revolutionary War.

Alexander Hamilton

by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton by Ron ChernowThere were two sides of the early politics: federalists (who supported Alexander Hamilton) and the anti-federalists (who did not) and eventually, the Republicans (who absolutely did not).Those who studied Thomas Jefferson before reading about Hamilton will not agree with his politics and may even dislike him, but I read this book about Alexander Hamilton before I read anything about Jefferson, so I was fascinated with his story, and his determination to overcome his humble  beginnings.Alexander Hamilton is about one of the most important Founding Fathers and how his name and works have become overlooked in favor of his political rivals, in spite of the absolute necessity of his policies. It was about the man and his choices, not just his politics.

America’s Women

by Gail Collins

America’s Women by Gail CollinsAmerica’s Women covers the entire history of women in the United States before, during, and after the American Revolution. It helped me understand the events that led to up to the Revolution, and the climate surrounding them, not just the political causes. It had a latent feminist agenda, but overall, it was extremely entertaining, well-researched, and made me glad I was born in this century!

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin was, without a doubt, one of the best known and influential men of his time. He was a writer and a scientist, and his perspective on the times is fascinating. Not only is this book more accurate as a primary source, it gives some very wonderful insight into one of the greatest minds of the 18th century.Unfortunately, it stops before some of his more extraordinary achievements as a diplomat in Europe, his scandalous exploits, and great inventions.While it doesn’t have any real details about the Revolution, you can’t study the American Revolution without studying Benjamin Franklin.

The foofooous Years: The Peopling of British North America – The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675

by Bernard Bailyn

The foofooous Years by Bernard BailynI’ll admit, parts of The foofooous Years were a little hard to get through. Early Americans were a tough people determined to survive and to do whatever it took to do that. It covers in depth the three-quarters of a century that Europe invaded America and settled here. It describes the massacre of the natives, the disease and famine the settlers faced, and the difficulties overcome in order for the colonists to survive in the hostile country.This book has everything from Native American culture to The Starving Time (and actual cannibalism).

John Adams

by David McCullough

John Adams by David McCulloughJohn Adams was not the most popular man in his time. He was outcast as a vice-president, and he only served one darkened term as President. However, the facts still stand that he was our country’s first vice-president and second president. He was an honorable man, in spite of his circumstances, and even alienated people because of his strong moral stance.John Adams was an easy-to-read and enjoyable read about one of our founding fathers, and one who enjoyed a long-lasting friendship with the more popular Thomas Jefferson and placed his own mark in posterity, which, his biographer tells us, he would have wanted more than anything else.

New York: The Novel

by Edward Rutherford

New York: The Novel by Edward RutherfordThis bookshelf won’t have many novels, but I really loved this one and devoured it in under a week (with my schedule, that’s unusual). Rutherfurd’s style is pretty unusual. Rather than tell a short story or focus on a main character, he settles on a location and tells its history through the eyes of a fictional family, generation after generation. The family interacts with the notable names of the times and reacts to the changing political climate and social issues. New York begins in the 17th century before the American Revolution and spans centuries to reach 9/11, so not all of it is relevant to this topic, however, like America’s Women, it gave a wonderful background on the issues leading up to the Revolution and following.Because it is a novel, New York was easy to read and follow, though the main character changes with each generation, so sometimes it’s hard to remember who is related to whom. In spite of this, it’s one of my favorite books, historical or otherwise.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

by Jon Meacham

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon MeachamThomas Jefferson is known as a man of enigma, a mystery. He was shy and soft-spoken, yet he sought a position in politics; he was charming and men and women alike adored him, yet he made some bitter enemies in his pursuit of power; he preferred science, architecture, and gardening, and wrote the most inflammatory and dangerous document of his time which earned him a place on Britain’s most-wanted list; he espoused ideals of freedom, and yet owned hundreds of slaves. He loved refinement, expensive clothing, and good wine, and at the same time encouraged the bloody French Revolution.Jon Meacham’s Art of Power unravels the mystery and  explains the man Jefferson was, reconciling all of these different parts of him into one incredible human being.

Washington: A Life

by Ron Chernow

Washington: A Life by Ron ChernowThis bookshelf wouldn’t be complete without General George Washington, first president of the United States of America, first Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, and the sole man who universal support from every man in Congress.Once I’ve found an author whose work is reliable and whose research is clear and detailed, I hold their books in pretty high esteem. So after I read Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, I had to read his book on George Washington.I was correct in my assumption that it would be well-researched, clearly documented, and made the legend of Washington into a living, breathing man. Chernow isn’t brief (Washington is over 500 pages), but he is excellent at describing the circumstances which led Washington to make the choices he did, and developing the character of General Washington until he is no longer the stilted General who could do no wrong; rather, you get a sense of his insecurities, his iron will, and his selflessness which made him nearly universally beloved of his country.It was Washington’s impeccable character which made Americans believe that a man in power could be fair and honest, and not a tyrant. Chernow’s biography is fascinating and a must-read for anyone interested in researching Washington. It’s a little long for anyone with a passing interest or mild curiosity, but perfect for people like me, who need to understand why people like Washington make the choices they do.

Young Patriots

by Charles Cerami

Young Patriots by Charles CeramiYoung Patriots is the story of the Constitutional Convention. Sounds dry, I know, but it is actually wasn’t. Cerami focuses on the two young men who made the Convention happen: James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. In their circle, they were the two youngest men, and yet, in spite of their age, they managed to accomplish incredible things.However, Charles Cerami isn’t very objective in his reporting. He clearly admires James Madison and heaps praise on him. Not undue praise, but in excess all the same. In spite of his obvious hero-worship, Cerami tells a good story and includes some very interesting stories. He makes the Constitutional Convention an understandable event, and the details leading up to it are relevant and interesting.

Patriots, Redcoats, & Spies

by Robert J. Skead

Patriots, Redcoats, & SpiesPatriots, Redcoats, & Spies is primarily directed at children, and should definitely be read in that mindset. It was a short, easy, fast-paced read. The dialogue is extremely modern, which is necessary in order for children to understand it, but still a little bit grating to someone who reads a lot of historical novels.However, it was a fun story and a great way to get kids interested in history. The illustrations were a fun addition.

Bookshelf: Movies/TV

John Adams

John Adams featuring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney
John Adams is a biopic TV series based on David McCullough’s John Adams (listed above). It was wonderful, and painted pictures of the events that can lose their shock value in the pages of history. It was very patriotic.I always liked Abigail Adams before seeing this, and after, I appreciated her sacrifices even more. John Adams, maybe not so much. The real John Adams was a hard-working and proud man, who often felt unappreciated and overlooked, yet continued to sacrifice his time and efforts to free his country.It seemed HBO focused mostly on his feelings of being unappreciated and the difficulties of his life rather than the hard work and accomplishments. There was so much more to him than that! But they did give justice to the wonderful friendship between John and Abigail and overall, it was extremely enjoyable. I’d love if HBO did more of these based on the other Founding Fathers.

The Patriot

The Patriot, featuring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs
The Patriot was very loosely based on the life of Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”. While it wasn’t necessarily true to the facts of his life, or even remotely historically accurate, it did offer an interesting perspective of the Revolution. Jason Isaacs is a fantastic villain based on General Sir Banastre Tarleton, who lives up to the title “The Most Hated Officer in America,” a title that may not have been fairly earned.The movie is designed to make Britain out to be purely evil, which wasn’t the case, but it’s still a very patriotic drama about the American Revolution.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, featuring Ioan Gruffud and Albert Finney
While this story technically takes place after the American Revolution and in England, I think it deserves a place on this bookshelf anyway.Ioan Gruffud is William Wilberforce, the champion of abolition in England. Wilberforce spent twenty years of his life bringing the issue of slavery before Parliament. He sacrificed his personal life, his energy, reputation, and his health to end the evil institution.It has an incredible cast including Michael Gambon (Harry Potter), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), and Rufus Sewell (who, surprisingly, doesn’t play a villain for once). It’s one of the things that made me so interested in slavery and partly inspired the research that led to Slavery During the Revolutionary War.

Bookshelf: Websites

Revolutionary War Animated Maps

Revolutionary War Animated MapsThis site is one of my very favorites to turn to when I write a battle page. Rather than complicated charts or maps, this site takes you step by step through the battle, with animated maps so you can see where the troops came from, who was leading them, and how they ended up. It’s really fun, educational, and easy to understand.

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