Read the Revolution

curated collection of excerpts from exciting, thought-provoking books about the American Revolution

May 23, 2018

Invisible Ink

​The recent popularity of the AMC show Turn has increased awareness of the little-known spy networks that helped Washington defeat British forces during the Revolutionary War. John Nagy’s 2010 book Invisible Ink: Spycraft of the American Revolution proves that truth is often stranger than fiction, perhaps particularly when it comes to spying. A product of Nagy’s decades of searching for clues to the identities and methods of American and British covert operatives during the war, relying heavily on the under-utilized British Army papers of General Henry Clinton, Nagy’s work unveils the identity of many formerly un-acknowledged patriots and numerous crypto-loyalists. His tale includes dozens of little known spies from all walks of life - not only soldiers and officers, but women, children, enslaved people, and ordinary craftsmen those who could blend easily into crowds and appear harmless to military officers on both sides, but whose quiet operations proved crucial.

Read More
May 9, 2018

Revolutionary Dissent

Colonial Americans redefined the limits of their right to speak and write, which they inherited from Great Britain. In Revolutionary Dissent: How the Founding Generation Created the Freedom of Speech, Stephen D. Solomon explores how Americans from the 1690s through the 1790s deployed their technology and communication networks to expand participation in political discussions. To do this, he explores the role of almost every form of colonial communication, including books, newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, songs, sermons, plays, letters, and many others which inspired and supported the Revolution.

Solomon also takes an inclusive view of what constitutes speech. In Chapter 4, entitled, “The Shoemaker,” as he is talking about the Stamp Act protests, Solomon discusses the importance of symbols as sometimes more potent and broadly accessible than the written word.

Read More
April 25, 2018

Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution through Painters’ Eyes

If you visit the United States Capitol Building and stand in its massive rotunda, you will be surrounded by eight historical paintings. Connecticut-born artist and Revolutionary War veteran John Trumbull painted four of them. Trumbull’s paintings depict triumphant moments from the American Revolution, from the presentation of the Declaration of Independence in the Pennsylvania State House to the British surrender at Yorktown.

Read More
April 11, 2018

Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution

In his book Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution, Arthur S. Lefkowitz has gathered over 50 paintings, drawings, and engravings by soldiers, sailors, officers and artists who worked from first-hand knowledge of the events. Richly illustrated with many rarely-reproduced works of art, Eyewitness Images also tells the stories of the artists behind the works, introducing many less-celebrated figures of the war and revealing some of their methods for creating art amidst the dangers of war.

Read More
March 28, 2018

Revolution Song

Russell Shorto’s Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom weaves together the life stories of six historical figures against the backdrop of the American Revolution. Through their own words, recorded in diaries, letters, and autobiographies, an intimate portrait of each of these characters emerges as the author takes the reader on a journey across borders and decades. Along the way, their stories sometimes intertwine, but the author’s goal is to examine what freedom, or more specifically individual freedom, means to six very different people.

Read More
March 14, 2018

The Expanding Blaze

The American Revolution was the first of a series of world-shaking democratic revolutions that swept the Atlantic World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Radical ideas of self-government, liberty, and republicanism challenged the Old World institutions of monarchy, aristocracy, and religious authority, transforming the modern world. In a sweeping work of intellectual history, Jonathan Israel investigates this global spread of enlightenment ideas in The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848.

Read More
February 28, 2018

Revolutionary

Deborah Sampson joined the Continental Army in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment at the age of 21 disguised as a man. Enlisted as Robert Shurtliff, Sampson participated in numerous skirmishes from 1782-1783 in New York's Lower Hudson River Valley. After an illness, her secret was discovered and Sampson received an honorable discharge at West Point in 1763. Later in life, she received a pension for her military service and went on a national tour giving speeches about her wartime experiences and demonstrations of the manual of arms.

Read More
February 14, 2018

Passion is the Gale

In the eighteenth century, love letters were not always meant for your lover's eyes only. Rather public expressions of love and affection were common during a courtship. We learn in this week's featured excerpt, that as courting men and women navigated a romantic relationship, they were also in a delicate negotiation of power.

Read More
January 24, 2018

Most Blessed of the Patriarchs

In a 1793 letter to Angelica Schuyler Church in 1793, Thomas Jefferson described himself as "the most blessed of the patriarchs," a revealing sentiment that provides a window into the mindset of one of America's most famous founding fathers.

As a republican patriot and plantation patriarch, the contradictions of Thomas Jefferson's private and public worlds continue to fascinate and confound. Two of the leading scholars of Thomas Jefferson, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, collaborated to produce an insightful study of how Jefferson understood himself and his life's work as a revolutionary, politician, president, and slaveholder. 'Most Blessed of the Patriarchs': Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, offers readers an intimate and provocative exploration of Thomas Jefferson's progression through life.

Read More
January 10, 2018

I Survived the American Revolution

When eleven-year-old Nathaniel Fox runs away from his cruel uncle, he finds himself alone in New York City in the middle of the Revolutionary War! Young Nate soon meets an old friend and joins up with a Connecticut regiment as a camp helper. As he settles into camp life, chopping wood, digging trenches, and hauling water for the Continental Army, Nate learns more about the Revolutionary War, the Declaration of Independence, and, of course, hears stories about the feared Hessian soldiers and their deadly bayonets. Yet, Nate's courage will soon be tested as he and the Continental Army prepare for the Battle of Brooklyn.

Read More

Pages