Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove
A New History of the Invention of America

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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 country’s 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 republic’s 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.


About Jack Rakove

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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.
Published May 6, 2010 by Mariner Books. 501 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Rakove’s analysis of James Madison at the Constitutional Convention, in particular, reveals the future president as an extraordinarily complex and politically creative thinker—truly a case of the right man in the right place at the right time.

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The New York Times

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Jack Rakove argues that the struggle for American independence molded the founders as much as they molded it.

Jul 23 2010 | Read Full Review of Revolutionaries: A New Histor...

The New York Times

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It’s one of the curiosities of American history that there is no definitive single-volume chronicle of the Revolutionary War, the kind of serious but approachable book that would grasp the conflict in the way that James M.

May 30 2010 | Read Full Review of Revolutionaries: A New Histor...

The Wall Street Journal

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The break-away from Britain had less to do with high ideals than with the passions of the common people.

May 21 2010 | Read Full Review of Revolutionaries: A New Histor...

The Washington Times

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America has long been fascinated by its Civil War, which has inspired thousands of books and scores of TV series. It pays much less attention to the revolution that brought independence to the first modern republic and that was a turning point in Western history.

Aug 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Revolutionaries: A New Histor...

Chicago Tribune

Given a choice, most Americans would prefer to read a book that affirms—however modestly—their sense of the Revolution as a good war executed by selfless men.

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Publishers Weekly

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Men like John Dickinson, George Mason, and Henry and John Laurens, rarely leading characters in similar works, put in strong appearances here.

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BBC History Magazine

The older leadership – such as Samuel Adams, George Mason, Henry Laurens and Benjamin Franklin – all receive due consideration, as do figures conspicuous in the later stages of the Revolution, such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the chief advocates of the Federal Constitution, which wa...

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