Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America adds an interesting twist to the format of writing a nonfiction book on the nation’s founding period. Author Jack Rakove tells a personalized tale from the perspective of America’s founding fathers as private individuals turned public figures during the forefront of the revolutionary revolt against British colonial rule. The book focuses on the period from 1773 to 1792 and highlights many historical household names and lesser-known contributors to America’s invention.

“Rakove shows us how these legendary figures...were made by the Revolution,...not just the makers of it. Rakove manages to demystify the leaders of the Revolutionary era even while clarifying the terms on which they continue to deserve our admiration” (San Francisco Chronicle).

A less-than-flattering review in The New York Times captured the essence of an excerpt from Rakove’s “Prologue” that shed light on his goal to portray the generation of Washington and Adams with a core of realism as opposed to over-glorified pomp:


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Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America adds an interesting twist to the format of writing a nonfiction book on the nation’s founding period. Author Jack Rakove tells a personalized tale from the perspective of America’s founding fathers as private individuals turned public figures during the forefront of the revolutionary revolt against British colonial rule. The book focuses on the period from 1773 to 1792 and highlights many historical household names and lesser-known contributors to America’s invention.

“Rakove shows us how these legendary figures...were made by the Revolution,...not just the makers of it. Rakove manages to demystify the leaders of the Revolutionary era even while clarifying the terms on which they continue to deserve our admiration” (San Francisco Chronicle).

A less-than-flattering review in The New York Times captured the essence of an excerpt from Rakove’s “Prologue” that shed light on his goal to portray the generation of Washington and Adams with a core of realism as opposed to over-glorified pomp:

“What’s ‘new’ about ‘Revolutionaries’? Well, you have to squint to grasp the subtleties, which will mean more to scholars than to an educated general reader. But Mr. Rakove says that a historian needs to be ‘as precise as possible about the experiences, attributes and events’ that gave the Revolutionary generation its defining character. Part of that precision means dismissing any sort of Tom Brokaw-like ‘greatest generation’ haze and noting that there were really two generations of 1776, an older cohort that included men like George Washington and Samuel and John Adams, and a younger group that came of age with the Revolution, including Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.”        

Another book review in the Chicago Tribune highlights Rakove’s aims for Revolutionaries:

“Historians have tended to gloss over this generational divide, perhaps in the service of simplicity but also, it would seem, in the service of drama. If Rakove’s larger aim in Revolutionaries is to demonstrate that members of both generations banded together at least partly because they all were colonial subjects, his second—and subtler—aim is to observe at close range the influences that individual members exerted on each other.”

The book is an extremely detailed, objective look at the personal evolution that men such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin and many others went through as they became historical figures. Revolutionaries provides a compelling look at how Washington became a lauded military strategist, Franklin and Jefferson became skilled diplomats, Hamilton and Madison became shrewd governmental architects. The book also details the advent of the American legal system.

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