Review: 1776 ~ David McCullough

America’s most acclaimed historian presents the intricate story of the year of the birth of the United States of America. “1776” tells two gripping stories: how a group of squabbling, disparate colonies became the United States, and how the British Empire tried to stop them. A story with a cast of amazing characters from George III to George Washington, to soldiers and their families, this exhilarating book is one of the great pieces of historical narrative

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first piece of work I have read by this Author and it exceeded all my expectations.  As with most narratives concerning well know historical facts, most educated readers already know the way things turn out before they even start the book; but with this one that doesn’t really matter as the Author does a skilful job at keeping the reader hooked right to the bitter end.

By choosing this one year in history, as opposed to cramming in everything he possibly can about this pivotal period of time for America, the Author is easily able to describe the unfolding events  in a way that turns this history book from dry and brittle to interesting and captivating; events are detailed in a logical chronological order that is easy to follow for even the most novice of readers.

Although this book was initially a narrative about the Continental Army from Bunker Hill to its victory at Trenton, the book could quite easily been a biography about George Washington.   The Author paints a portrait of Washington that is not the usual fodder a reader comes across when reading about this man. As expected he is shown as a man of faith and with exemplary leadership skills while at the same time showing he was just a man with normal traits such as feelings of self-doubt especially after the defeats at Brooklyn and Fort Washington.  Not content with revealing this all too human side of the man, the Author through extensive research, shows that two of Washington’s closest generals, General Charles Lee and Joseph Reed, lost a great deal of confidence in him after the Continental Army’s retreat across the Hudson.  With all the background provided it is easier for the reader to paint a more realistic picture of Washington in their minds, and although I felt I could connect with the man there were also parts of his personality that came through in the Authors writing which made me feel mighty uncomfortable when he was in the room.

Surprisingly, in a book on this topic, not everything is about the Continental Army, and its driving of the Redcoats from America: this Author also gives over a large portion of their book to the personalities, actions and motivations of the King’s Army.  By doing this a book is written that gives a well-rounded account of events that happened in this year, and possibly why the Continental Army was victorious.

I could write for hours on this book, but then this would turn from a review into a possible thesis, and also negate any reason for someone to read this.  It is a book well worth spending time with, and I would highly recommend it to any lovers of this time period and all historical nonfiction readers in general.