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The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789

(The Oxford History of the United States #3)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  7,696 ratings  ·  279 reviews
The first book to appear in the illustrious Oxford History of the United States, this critically acclaimed volume--a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize--offers an unsurpassed history of the Revolutionary War and the birth of the American republic.

Beginning with the French and Indian War and continuing to the election of George Washington as first president, Robert Middlekauff
Paperback, 736 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1982)
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This book tends to be tedious even if informative with the occasional social commentary by the author. The typos don't help much either.

That said, there's some really good information here especially about the many battles and fumbles and stumbles made by Washington (mediocre to average military commander, better politician).

Where's a fair assessment of Benedict Arnold's turning on us? Don't expect it within. Middlekauff operates in black and white perspectives especially when it comes to deify
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
So, you pick up a book about the American Revolution. And the first 20 pages talk about the coming of the war and glosses over such things as the Stamp Act and the Townsend Acts and and the Intolerable Acts and never really discusses anything enough in detail for you to understand who these people (especially in Britain) were and why they kept to a course that angered the colonists and BOOM! You're at Lexington and Concord.

Not this time.

I've been reading history for over 50 years and this is the
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2015
A fantastic look at the American Revolution. This is the ONE book to read if you are fresh off the boat and looking for early American History. It is Vol 3. of the eventual 12 volume Oxford History of the United States (although it was first to be published). Middlekauff is balanced in his approach. He isn't looking to reinvent, revise, or revoke history. But you can't just call what he does a summary. His narrative captures the brilliance of, and the almost accidental start of, the American Rep ...more
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another excellent entry in the Oxford History of the United States. I didn't personally find it quite as engrossing as "Empire of Liberty" or "What Hath God Wrought," but still extremely interesting and informative. This book goes to some lengths to explain and document just how radical much of America was before the revolution (which flies in the face of some of my collegiate history instructors, who pitched the revolution as more of a minority driven phenomenon). Likewise, it at times adopts a ...more
Brian Pate
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, history
Thoroughly enjoyed this volume in the US Oxford History series. Well written (by Robert Middlekauff) and well read (by Robert Fass). I listened to this book while traveling to language school in May 2019.

Things I learned:

- Most interesting was seeing the background that led to the conflict (e.g., Britain's disorganization, King George III's lack of preparation, etc.).

- Most alarming was hearing of the mob violence in the colonies (e.g., destroying property, murder, almost burying a guy alive
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
by Robert Middlekauff

The fear and anxiety arose from one compelling conviction: a conspiracy existed to deprive Americans of their liberties and to reduce them to slavery, and the Stamp Act was merely the “first step to rivet the chains of slavery on us forever.” (Page 130)

Few in Britain had imagined that the Americans could pull themselves together and create a central government and an army — and then fight year after year. Fewer still sens
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, history
As a one volume history of the American Revolution, The Glorious Cause is nicely complete, but seems to assume some prior knowledge. Now, as there's plenty of 'everyone knows' bits about the American Revolution, that's not awful here, but this is definitely an introductory book, and I think it assumes too much on occasion.

It is at its best in the early chapters, which deal with the decade or more of political problems that lead up to the outbreak of hostilities. After that, it feels like Middlek
Jun 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Several decades ago, editor C. Vann Woodward and his collaborator Richard Hofstadter founded the Oxford History of the U.S. series, to bring rigorous historical scholarship to a wide reading audience. The subject matter would consist of a series of books by distinguished historians, each focusing on an important era of American History, from colonial times to the present day, in random order. Robert Middlekauff produced the first book in the series in 1982; it was expanded and revised into this ...more
The Glorious Cause is an exhaustive history of the late 18th century in North America. Events leading up to, during, and after the American Revolution are thoroughly examined for the most part. However, there are greater emphases placed on certain aspects of this time period that leave a misleading interpretation of why this era is so important.

What Middlekauff does very well is describe the build up to the Revolution within an international context. The reader gets a glimpse into the main figu
Jeremy Perron
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As I continue my march through the ages, where I explore all the historical eras of the United States of America, I finally arrive at the age and event that would create the nation itself. Having finished Fred Anderson Crucible of War, I had already arrived at that generation of Americans, which we would describe as the Founding generation, and they were living under the man they would call tyrant, King George III. As I stated in an earlier post the biggest challenge in this little project is to ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Barely finished this one.

The best history books (in my opinion) almost read like fiction. They have a story arc and characters that grow and come alive on the page. This book, on the other hand, is written more like: "this happened, then this happened, then this happened". This made it a pretty dull read.

Also, it didn't really have a focus. Does it want to be a general overview of the American Revolution? It focuses far too much on some things and not enough on others for that. Does it want to
May 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive and ambitious work, with a good deal of primary and secondary research. It is a military history as well as a political history, and wanders into social commentary as well. Middlekauff does a great job of explaining how pivotal the Seven Years' War was in American History as it forced England to re-examine her relationship to her American colonies. Prior to that war the colonies had not provided England with the wealth that imperial nations desire from their colonies, but they ha ...more
Ray Palmer
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Glorious Cause is a great objective history of the American Revolution. Its 700 pages cover approximately 20 years of history, so about a decade on either side of 1776. And it is about as detailed as one can expect within those constraints.

If you want jingoistic hagiography, it’s probably not the book for you. But by taking a fair and dispassionate approach the author is able to show just how unique and transformative the founding of the USA was in the history of the world. The story of the
James Murphy
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow. The Glorious Cause is the most comprehensive history of the American Revolution I know. Most general histories of it treat it more as a war and military events rather than as the overall political and social transformation it in fact was. Middlekauff's history covers every aspect of the war. For one thing, he begins the story in 1763, at the end of the French and Indian War, when he says the discontent which blossomed into open rebellion began. And he doesn't end his story until 1789 and th ...more
Clinton Rice
Jan 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is my first book review, so the 4-star rating is a little tenuous; the book met many expectations in excellent fashion, but due the complexity of subject matter, there were parts that became a bit disjointed or left me hoping uncertainly that issues would be dealt with later (they almost invariably were, but foreknowledge would have been nice).

There were two primary facets that I cared about: the historical narrative of America's evolution from colonies to functioning nation, and ideologica
Carson Stones
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
From the Stamp Act to the Washington's Inauguration and everything in-between, Robert Middlekauff manages to capture the passion, sacrifice, and larger-than-life personalities which made the cause glorious. What really stood out to me about this narrative was the constant state of desperation and near-catastrophe in which the rebels found themselves. In fact, without the aid of French warships and materiel (not to mention Lafayette!), I'm not convinced that Washington and his Continental Army wo ...more
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good, solid overview of the American Revolution, but unlike the other books I've read in the Oxford History of the United States, not one I would recommend as an introductory text. Middlekauf seems to assume a prior knowledge about much of the personalities and events of the Revolution, and his narrative can be difficult to follow if you're not already familiar (sometimes very familiar) with the story of American Independence.

His choice of focus was at times curious as well: great detail is p
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was a book with a massive amount of information to grasp and remember but since I love history I gave it my best and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I’m a nerd and a geek when it comes to history, sue me. This audiobook was over 26 hours long but it’s one of the best books I’ve found that really examines in detail the politics, the battles and the personalities of the American Revolution. I found this brief review sums it up better than I could.

There's really almost nothing to criticize in "The Glo
Brian Willis
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This overview of the causes and results of the struggle for American independence takes 250 pages to detail the numerous causes and grievances that led to the conflict, 350 pages to detail the military history of the battlefield conflicts themselves, and the final 100 pages to enumerate the need and drafting of the Constitution. A fundamental claim, which I haven't encountered elsewhere, is that the socio-religious background of those Americans informed their opinions of the fallibility of human ...more
Joel Arnold
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I came to this book after reading 1776 by McCullough and wishing I could finish the war. Middlekauff did not disappoint.

This work is certainly written on a scholarly level and Middlekauff is a careful historian. As a result, the book is hardly as entertaining as 1776, but the picture it presents of the era is often more illuminating. Middlekauff includes chapters on religion, domestic life, international events, politics, and culture, in addition to the military events. I finished this book feel
Rod Zemke
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It gets a five because it is such a comprehensive history of the birth of the American Republic. This book is part of the Oxford Series on American History. Reading this book in 2017 reminds the reader that the Constitution was written by men and not Gods. Although the Constitution has served us well, it may need 21st-century revisions. The Electoral College is obviously out-of-date. Also, representation in Congress has to be addressed. How long can we continue to give Wyoming and California eac ...more
Unfortunately I did not finish. I went into this work because I wanted to know why the Americans rebelled against Great Britain. The beginning chapters explain these events fantastically. However, once the book got into battle formations, troop movement, military tactics etc, I became uninterested and struggled. Military theory isn't my cup of tea. Also I have taken a course on the events following post-Revolutionary War, so I know about the US Constitution and all the drama surrounding the rati ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
The American Revolution in a single 700-page volume. A little dense, but well worth the effort.
Gage Garlinghouse
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff is a book that depicts the glorious battles of the war and its political struggle and ideals all in one fell swoop. While building up through the war, and going all the way to its end.
Being published in 1982 the book has had two editions. With them each being part of the two sets of the Oxford History of the United States book series. the story of the book is, for lack of a better word, history. It is an in depth look at
Matt Davenport
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly in-depth account of the American Revolutionary period, from the first grumbles of protest in 1763 to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. This book served as the de facto textbook for my "American Revolution and Constitution" class at Baylor, and it does an excellent job going in depth about the roles played in every single event from every single side. With that, it can be an overly lengthy read at times, but the writing is well-done and the separations by chapter cl ...more
Russell Bright
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Oh! So THAT'S what was going on in the first half of Hamilton. ...more
Kirstin Dobson
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 would probably be more accurate.
It puts the American Revolution into a clear whole and tells the complete story in a basically understandable fashion. It's gets tedious in detail though and thus quite dense reading.
" The Americans answer was the political understanding established in the years of the Revolution.This answer has posed a challenge for Americans ever since-to act in ways that capture the wisdom of their revolutionary past."
Great book,for me 300 pages to long but for hard core historians a great read.
Jun 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I think it took about three months, but I've finally finished this beastly tome chronicling the American Revolution in immense detail. For me it was a disappointment, despite the fact that the author did a remarkable job in his depth, breadth, and accuracy of information.

No one will ever accuse Middlekauff of not being thorough, that's for certain. And the quality of the information he provides in The Glorious Cause is indisputably excellent. But as far as how this actually reads?'s a
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gina bought me this book for my Kindle awhile back, as I've expressed greater interest in exploring American history in the past few years.

The Revolutionary period is my favorite period of American history as the "idea" of America continues to exercise a powerful hold on my imagination. Sometimes, I wonder whose side I would have been on had I been alive at the time as the history reveals that it was not all good guys vs. bad guys.

I would not consider this an introduction, but more of a specia
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Robert L. Middlekauff is a professor emeritus of colonial and early United States history at the University of California, Berkeley.

Other books in the series

The Oxford History of the United States (10 books)
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 - 1848
  • Battle Cry of Freedom
  • The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
  • Reawakened Nation: The Birth of Modern America, 1896-1929 (Oxford History of the United States, Vol. 8)
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
  • Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush V. Gore
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

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