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1776. By David McCullough. (Simon & Schuster: 2005. Pg. 400.) ISBN: 0743226720.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - June 28, 2005

David McCullough is an outstanding historian, lecturer, and teacher. He has a knack for taking historical events and personages and bringing them to vivid life for people of all ages. He has written numerous popular history books, on a range of subject from a biography on John Adams, which can be read as a companion book to 1776, to an historical account of the Johnstown Flood. In his newest book, 1776, McCullough takes an unprecedented look at the year 1776, and the events surrounding the American quest for independence from Britain that occurred during that momentous year. As important, he shows just how easily one slip of the tongue, one mischance, or how a fog-less night could have altered the entire outcome of the American Revolution.

McCullough's writing is fluid and sparkling, his prose grabs your attention and the historic events that he chronicles keeps the pages turning at an unprecedented rate! Working with the newest historical information available, and with his keen eye for detail, McCullough offers insights into the year 1776 that will forever alter your understanding and appreciation for the men and women, on both sides of the conflict, that contributed to the pursuance of the American Revolution. Throughout this historic account, McCullough interweaves biographical sketches of the main players, including King George III, General George Washington, John Adams, Lord Howe, and Henry Knox. He also provides insights into the lives and thoughts of lesser known participants such as Thomas Hickey, Colonel Moses Little, and Mrs. Robert Murray.

This book, in retelling the events of 1776, provides not only an historical chronicle, but also an overview of how average people, from all walks of life from Hessian mercenaries to housewives, felt about the events going on around them. This is the type of popular narrative history that reads like a block-buster thriller - only the events depicted in this book are all real.

In 1776, McCullough explores this pivotal moment in history from both sides of the conflict, and he shows how each side had both its own good and bad points. As well as why the leaders on both sides should be viewed as patriots - just for different causes. Most important, as well as concentrating on King Charles III, and George Washington, McCullough also tells the story of 1776 through the eyes, and actions of two men who may have been even more instrumental in the outcome of the conflict than their titular leaders. These two men, General Nathanael Greene, fighting on the side of the American rebels, and Commander William Howe who lead the British forces. McCullough aptly gives these two men their due, and he his equally fair in showing how each erred. He also shows just how easily the American Revolution could have come to an end in 1776, and what events kept the conflict alive.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this book is not the fact that it does a marvelous job of chronicling the events of 1776, but rather it clearly delineates the fact that there is two sides to the story. All too often history books, both American and British present a biased account of the American Revolution. McCullough sets the record straight in 1776, providing a balanced overview of the events, their causes, and their consequences. 1776 will fascinate anyone with an interest in American, Military, or Social history. It is also an ideal book for younger readers - even if they are so young that you have to read it to them. Lively, and energetic, this is not the staid type of history book that you were forced to read in school. Rather, this is a book that presents history as it should be - dynamic and accessible. Scholars and students will also find McCullough's source notes and bibliography invaluable as a guide for further study. I highly recommend 1776 to readers of all ages!

Related Reviews:

Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence, By Bernard Bailyn.
In Faces of Revolution, Bernard Bailyn has brought together a series of his essays on the American Revolution that not only illuminates the subject matter, but which serve to stir the imagination.

Crisis of Empire: Great Britain and the American Colonies 1754-1783, By Ian R. Christie.
In this book, Christie attempted to give a brief, but a thorough, chronological overview of the causes and the consequences of the American Revolution. Dealing primarily with the period from 1754-1783, Christie, also included a terse review of the historical background which precipitated the settlement of the colonies, their general histories, and the events which laid the ground work for the crisis.

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