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Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America
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Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  614 ratings  ·  60 reviews
In this remarkable and elegantly written book, the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Jack Rakove offers a new and revealing perspective on America’s revolutionaries. In his hands, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and Hamilton were not pitchfork-wielding radicals or relentless power seekers. They started out as men of property and private affairs, tending to careers an ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2010)
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Bob Price
How do 'simple' men go from being farmers and lawyers and businessmen in 1770 to the leaders of a new nation by 1793? That is the central question found in Jack Rakove's book Revolutionaries .

Rakove focuses on the period of time between 1770 and 1793 because in these years the foundational questions of what type of country we would become were decided by a relatively small group of individuals. These individuals' personalities, history, and charater became essential to the American founding.

I wish I could say I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I didn't. That isn't to say it isn't a good read, because it is, but it's much more informative than enthralling. I found it hard-going but worth persevering with, if that makes any sense!

It's very much a political history of the major characters involved in the Revolution and the creation of the fledgling United States, rather than a social or military history of the Revolution itself. I found myself learning far more than I'd ever intended
John Martindale
I enjoyed this for the most part. The author showed how many of the American founders were not at all what we'd now think of revolutionaries before the war. Though there were some radicals like Samuel Adams and some extremist in Boston, most Americans were not looking for independence from their mother country. It was only after the over-the-top and harsh response of Great Britain to the Boston Tea Party, that many moderates felt thrust into politics, war, diplomacy and the forming of a new cons ...more
Frank Roberts
The key distinction of Rakove's approach is to examine how the Revolutionary generation became revolutionaries. With the probable exception of Samuel Adams, these were not men who set out to start a war or declare independence. Though they all saw themselves as "Americans"--a key factor to their eventual choices, they also all considered themselves as subjects of the British King and they did not seek to change that, until they faced the intransigence of the British government and its heavy-hand ...more
Mark Paul
For the better part of a century, Americans have alternated between idolizing the nation's revolutionary generation and muckraking them. One moment they are portrayed as demi-gods, the instruments of Divine Providence; the next moment, they are reactionaries and slaveholders, fighting to protect property and slavery.

In Revolutionaries, Jack Rakove's beautifully written group portrait of the founding generations, they are placed where they belong: in their own time and their own place. Rakove sh
Ed Eleazer
This book should be required reading in American history courses at the high school level, as well as in civics and political science courses (Do they still teach Civics in grade school?) Rakove's analysis of "The Founding Fathers" is nuanced and extremely well written. For those who have studied American history at the college level, the facts he presents are probably old hat, but he makes such perceptive correlations between the events of the Revolution/Early Federal period and the political d ...more
I admit that I actually didn't finish reading this book. I personally think highly of Dr. Rakove and I find the subject matter of the book interesting. I just couldn't finish the book before I had to return it to the library.
My main issue is that it is written by a professor, and it therefore has a very different style from comparable books written by journalists (in my opinion, not as accessible). Each episode is long and drawn-out, filled with a lot of detail. While the book is clearly thoroug
Brian Manville
In turbulent times, the true character of people will often be revealed. Just as often, people will reveal the nature of their mental acuity. The American Revolution revealed that this collection of 13 colonies was equipped with some of the finest men that America has ever known. These men's collective efforts towards independence are chronicled in Jack Rakove's book.

Dr. Rakove - currently a professor at Stanford - writes a book that is part history, part biography. This unique attempt at illust
Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
442 pages
History, US
4.5/5 stars

Source: Received for review through Netgalley

Summary: Covering approximately 1773 to 1792, this book aims to reveal the Founding Fathers as never before seen. They were private citizens who appeared on the public scene as leaders and thinkers as they shaped what would become the United States of America.

Thoughts: I had trouble getting in to this book, partly because it is an ebook and my preference is sti
An interesting but not a compelling read. The NY Times review criticized Rakove for the "whimper" of an ending and its failure to encapsulate important issues of the American revolution. Even worse, in this reader's opinion, the book ducks many key issues alive 200 years later. In addition, Rakove builds towards a climax by describing Washington's first term and the work of Alexander Hamilton to build a supporting financial infrastructure for the young government -- then abruptly stops without e ...more
Jack Rakove offers a revealing perspective on America’s revolutionaries. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, & Hamilton started out as men of property & private affairs, tending to careers & families, making their way in a deeply provincial world. But when events in Massachusetts escalated out of control after the Boston Tea Party, they were swept up in the crisis, their private lives suddenly transformed into public careers. Rakove shows us how reluctant the revolutionaries were ...more
Igor Faynshteyn
The great scholar and historian of the early American history, professor Jack Rakove, has succeeded in writing a history about the American Revolution and its major, although some lesser well-known, revolutionary characters. The success of this dense and scholarly, though a very much readable work, lies in its successful fusion of a serious political and historical interpretation, and narrative. It is therefore at once a fast-paced and lively narrative, coupled with an interpretive study of the ...more
This took me six months to finish. I don't read slowly, so it wasn't that. Nor is the book particularly long (340 pages). It is however, very boring. I'm sure it's interesting to some people. It was nominated for the George Washington Book Prize, so many people clearly liked it. I was just not one of them. I can't say that I hated it either, because there was nothing to hate, it was just... beige.

To me, this is not a history book. It contained pieces of history. Each chapter was ostensibly on on
David R.
Rakove tries to find new ground on which to evaluate the important figures of the Revolutionary War period (Jefferson, Washington, Adams(es), Hamilton, Franklin, etc.) as well as some lesser personalities. I don't think he sheds more insight but he tells a more compelling story. The chapters on Henry Laurens and his son as it relates to the question of African slavery and that of General Washington are perhaps the most fascinating.
Doug DePew
Apr 30, 2011 Doug DePew rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in the founding fathers of the United States
Recommended to Doug by: History Book Club
"Revolutionaries" by Jack Rakove is unlike any other book I've read on the founding of the Republic. It is very well written and held my interest from beginning to end. It explores the founders in a way that I don't think has been done complete people. He takes us from the build-up to war through the early years of the US covering both famous founding fathers such as Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington, but also little known founders who were no less important. Many of the personal v ...more
Jay Perkins
This is a great bok on the revolutionary era with an emphasis on important personalities, rather than events. Rakove covers a good deal of information about well known as well as lesser known American Founders. He handles each man objectively but fairly.
One of the best part of this book was his chapter on Henry Laurens and his son John (or Jack). John Laurens' bravery in the war and desire to emancipate slaves to form an army to fight the British in the south is regrettably one of the least kno
Met Rakove at the Coe Workshop at Stanford in the summer of 2010, and his discussion was quite shocking and rambling, as he holds some fairly strange positions on the revolution (economics doesn't help explain the revolution etc) and his book is no different. Erudite and chock-full with interesting discussions about how normal, well-bred/read gentlemen of the Revolution found themselves as leaders with a terrific opportunity to revolutionize the way we live, this guy could use an editor with a b ...more
Jun 27, 2015 Christine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All citizens of the US
This was a thorough account of how provincial colonists became revolutionaries. I highly recommend it
for all citizens of our country. My favorite part is the last chapter, which details the rise of political parties, due to the animosity between Jefferson and Hamilton. It is rich in detail and well- written.
Although written by a renowned historian, it is not just for history buffs! As a teacher of history, I plan to keep this book at hand in the classroom for easy reference.
And as good books u
David Celley
Broadened my perception of how the founding fathers managed in face of long odds to form the free country we live in today.
Our Constitution had a rocky start as Rakove's "Revolutionaries" describes. Rakove's work does more by giving the reader and understanding of the motives and character of the Founders. Though Washington, Adams, Jefferson, played formative roles in building the new nation, it is James Madison who is the real architect of the Constitution. Although quite dry at time, the problems of representaion, defining and empowering the branches of government, and states rights v. a strong federal gove ...more
Andrew Scholes
It had a lot of good information about the Revolutionary time. I did find his writing to be very plodding.
This author's previous works are heavily academic. This book, though clearly the result of a scholar's research and discipline, is very readable. The insights into what our Founding Fathers brought to the debate about independence, the form of government and the rights of all men in the new America are fascinating. Rakove so recreates collective and individual thinking of the times that one sees the magnitude of the political and economic revolutions as I never viewed them before. The portraits ...more
Matthew Rothschild
A series of short, biographical histories focusing on the American founding fathers.
Jack Rokove writes a deeply compelling and exacting account of the "Revolutionaries." His analysis is precise and thought-provoking as he dissects the many dimensions of these larger than life characters. However, the book tends to sputter from the author's academic perspective and style of writing that makes the reading experience oftentimes dauntingly complex and less than enjoyable.

I would recommend this book only for serious minded students of history. While it is very informative and intell
Jason Vanhee
Interesting in places, but poorly focused and without much of a central theory or argument. Even as history it doesn't do very well. In his afterword, he thanks his editor for constantly making him realize that he has to approach a book of this sort from the perspective of a person who hasn't taught college level US history for decades; he has to realize that most people don't know what he assumes they should know. However, even with this constant notification, he fails; he either assumes we kno ...more
It was a fun read. Not only does the book touch on the famous major players of the revolution, it also discussed the lives of some of the leaders that I hadn't read much about before, for example Henry Laurens, George Mason, John Dickinson, and others. The format is similar to Ellis' Founding Brothers or American Creation, where the author chooses a handful of shorter stories to tell, rather than attempting a comprehensive history. The book is appropriate for people newly interested in the Ameri ...more
Whether this is a 'new' history of the American revolutionaries or a rehash of previous known facts can certainly be debated. Rakove does bring together a LOT of information, much discussing the personalities of many of the major (and some of the minor) characters of the period. His approach is certianly a change from the usually historical presentation of the era - at times I found the reading too detailed and a little tedious; the book could have been shorter and the prose a little more entert ...more
An outstanding history, considering the number of subjects.

The only minor quibble is that the Revolutionary War section is weaker than those on the constitution and the formation of the government; choosing to frame the chapters by individuals rather than events slightly hamstrings the flow of recounting an international war (for example Jack Laurens is the subject of a whole chapter but the chronology of his life means that his death is dealt with much later and is therefore recounted in mere
Former Colgate Professor makes good. He won the Pulitzer Prize with an earlier book and now teaches at Stanford, where the weather, at least, is better. Now he's written an engrossing book about the founding fathers. Speaking of fathers, Rakove comes by the writing ability honestly as his father, Milton, wrote two of the best books about Chicago's Richard Daley, the First, "We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent" and "Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers".
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*~Can't Stop Read...: Revolutionaries - on Libboo - one free copy available 1 3 Feb 02, 2013 12:09AM  
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Jack Rakove is the William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and professor of political science and (by courtesy) law at Stanford, where he has taught since 1980. His principal areas of research include the origins of the American Revolution and Constitution, the political practice and theory of James Madison, and the role of historical knowledge in constitutional litigation. ...more
More about Jack N. Rakove...
Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution Founding America: Documents from the Revolution to the Bill of Rights James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic (Library of American Biography Series) The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence The Federalist: The Essential Essays, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay

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