Revolutionaries: Book summary and reviews of Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove

Revolutionaries

A New History of the Invention of America

by Jack Rakove

Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This superb book is about a few of the men—'revolutionaries despite themselves'—who helped birth the U.S. and give it political and moral dimension...Everyone interested in the founding of the U.S. will want to read this book." - Publishers Weekly

"Essential reading for both scholars and fans of Joseph Ellis and David McCullough as well as a poignant and engaging glimpse into the world of the revolutionary generation." - Library Journal

"An ambitious, intelligent exploration into the intellectual underpinnings of the Revolution." - Kirkus Reviews

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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.

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