Synopses & Reviews
In the early 1770s, the men who invented America were living quiet, provincial lives in the rustic backwaters of the New World, devoted primarily to family, craft, and the private pursuit of wealth and happiness. None set out to become "revolutionary" by ambition, but when events in Boston escalated, they found themselves thrust into a crisis that moved, in a matter of months, from protest to war.
In this remarkable book, the historian Jack Rakove shows how the private lives of these men were suddenly transformed into public careers—how Washington became a strategist, Franklin a pioneering cultural diplomat, Madison a sophisticated constitutional thinker, and Hamilton a brilliant policymaker. Rakove shakes off accepted notions of these men as godlike visionaries, focusing instead on the evolution of their ideas and the crystallizing of their purpose. In Revolutionaries, we see the founders before they were fully formed leaders, as individuals whose lives were radically altered by the explosive events of the mid-1770s. They were ordinary men who became extraordinary—a transformation that finally has the literary treatment it deserves.
Spanning the two crucial decades of the countrys birth, from 1773 to 1792, Revolutionaries uses little-known stories of these famous (and not so famous) men to capture—in a way no single biography ever could—the intensely creative period of the republics founding. From the Boston Tea Party to the First Continental Congress, from Trenton to Valley Forge, from the ratification of the Constitution to the disputes that led to our two-party system, Rakove explores the competing views of politics, war, diplomacy, and society that shaped our nation.
Thoughtful, clear-minded, and persuasive, Revolutionaries is a majestic blend of narrative and intellectual history, one of those rare books that makes us think afresh about how the country came to be, and why the idea of America endures.
In this remarkable book, the historian Jack Rakove offers a new and revealing perspective on the men who invented America. Much has been written about the military struggle that led to independence, but Rakove is far more concerned with the intellectual one: the competing views of politics, war, diplomacy, and society that shaped the very idea of an American nation. Spanning the most crucial decades of the country's birth, from 1772 to 1792, Revolutionaries uses the stories of famous (and not so famous) men to capture--in a way no single biography ever could--the intensely creative period of the Republic's founding. Each of his portraits brims with fascinating and fresh insights: Washington as a flawed tactician but expert manager, Jack Laurens as a slave trader's son who developed a plan to recruit black soldiers, Jefferson as a powerful critic of Europe's social order but a voracious consumer of its culture. Rakove shakes off accepted notions of these men as godlike visionaries. We see Madison, Hamilton, Adams, and others before they were fully formed leaders, before the Republic was effectively functioning. We catch them in the act of thinking--about when and how to break with Britain, how to wage a war that often seemed impossible to win, what exactly the Constitution should say--and in doing so we begin to understand, perhaps for the first time, how the country came to be and why the idea of America endures.
A new and revealing perspective on the men who invented America. Spanning the most crucial decades of the country's birth, from 1772 to 1792, Rakove uses the stories of famous (and not-so-famous) men to capture the intensely creative period of the Republic's founding.
A bold new examination of the American Revolution, focusing on the contradictory ideals that shaped the idea of a new American nation.
About the Author
JACK RAKOVE, the William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and a professor of political science at Stanford University, is one the most distinguished historians of the early American republic. He is the author of, among other books, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. He frequently writes op-ed articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers. He has been an expert witness in Indian land claims litigation and has testified in Congress on impeachment.