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Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision of Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, and the Invading British Army

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  172 ratings  ·  25 reviews
In 1814, British troops invaded and burned Washington; the White House still bears scorch and soot marks on its foundation stones. Until the British tried to obliterate it, many Americans remained violently opposed to the idea of Washington as the nation's capital. It was only after the British lesson in "hard war," designed to terrorize Americans, that the city became a l ...more
Audio CD, 368 pages
Published May 22nd 2008 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
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Start your review of Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision of Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, and the Invading British Army
Lisa
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the subject matter, not a normally treated subject from that time period. I also didn't realize how much a hot political issue it was to locate the federal city where Washington is today and how much the decision shaped the political structure of compromise and give and take that symbolizes the American embodiment of government. The intrigue and the politics behind the building of the federal city, both the first time and then after the sacking by the British, as well as the many chara ...more
Brandie
I picked this book up because we were traveling to DC and I wanted to read something related.

I found this book completely fascinating.

I had no idea how DC came to be or all the controversy surrounding it!

Standiford was able to weave the story of how DC came to be and how it's first few decades went in a way that was informative and entertaining without being too technical.

I enjoyed the book tremendously and loved the history lessons learned it.

Sometimes, though, Standiford jumps around a bit,
...more
Glen Leavens
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done book and review of how Washington DC was built. Politics have not changed…The end of the revolutionary war is thought to be the war of 1812 and the start of this fascinating book. The building of the capital city has am interesting history. Well done book and fun reading.
Dustless Walnut
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting if somewhat haphazardly presented.
Teddy
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting - seems like politics haven't really changed that much since the start of our country.
J
Jul 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who appreciate history but aren't hardcore readers of history
Shelves: non-fiction
BEWARE. I DON'T FLAG SPOILERS. BUT I DON'T PUT MY REVIEWS OUT ON ANY FEED, EITHER.

I wouldn't go so far as to claim what the book jacket does -- that "the narrative is as absorbing as that of any good novel" -- but I found the material interesting and think Standiford did a great job considering that the only verbatim dialogue came from diaries, letters, articles.

A few of the bits that made an impact on me -- 1. the notion that D.C.'s location was not a surefire thing, 2. that it had several na
...more
Paul Lunger
Les Standiford's "Washington Burning: How a Frenchman's Vision of Our Nation's Capital Survived Congress, the Founding Fathers, & the invading British Army" tells the story of the creation of Washington, DC & how it came to become our nation's capital in December 1800. The book gains its title from the burning of the city in August 1814 by the British in the War of 1812 & follows the decisions made by the Continental Congress to decide as to where exactly our nation's capital should be. The main ...more
Cindy
Oct 15, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dedicated history buffs - everyone else will be bored
The description calls it 'riveting.' I think that's being a little kind. At first I was interested in the story of Peter Charles L'Enfant, the architect who planned the city of Washington. But the story bogged down in detail pretty fast. Then the story would get so far ahead, then in the next chapter back up to some insignificant detail. I really found the story of the British invasion and destruction of Washington in 1812 to be great reading, but then the story slowed down again with more detai ...more
Sheryl Fish
Gave it 3 stars for subject matter but for the book itself would rate it a 2 star. Was a slow read but the amount of historical content I learned by reading the book was astounding. I love that time in history, the birth of our nation and never was taught in school the political debate and firestorm on where to place the nations capital.

Even back during the early years of our nation the government was built on lobbyist and special interest groups. When the writer focused on those areas was I mo
...more
Kurt
I picked up this book because I wanted to start to be intentional about knowing some of the history of Washington. This provides pretty good insight into the creation of the city, but I have to admit doesn't do a very good job of describing the actual construction of the city. It is truly just about the struggle to choose the capital and design parts of it (mostly the Capitol and the White House). Not bad, not great, but a good introduction to how the city was founded and pretty well written.
Mitchell
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous read on the creation of Washington. It is amazing to think how much the city today resembles L'Enfant's vision in spite of all the problems he had (many of which were self-inflicted). It is amazing how much history repeats itself -- the construction of the city was perpetually harmed by Congress' penny pinching and political backbiting. Interesting anecdote, in spite of the fact that L'Enfant was living in Washington when the British burned it, nobody knows where he was on that day. H ...more
Ora
Oct 13, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book sounded promising but was boring until the last few chapters when it gets to the war of 1812 and the renewed interest of the cities architect 70 years after his death.

The author does a nice job at the beginning of tying the idea of the terrorism of 9/11 to the burning of Washington, D.C., and then he ties that back nicely at the end.

The rest of the book is like reading the minutes of Congressional meetings.
Gerald Curtis
This book portrays the history and development of the city of Washington DC, along with all the frustrating and annoying interferences of self-seeking politicians and greedy businessmen who almost succeeded in preventing the building of the city.
Mary
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are interested in US history in particular the post American Revolutionary period you should enjoy this book. It covers both the building of Washington DC as well as the War of 1812 and how it effected the district.
Adrian Moran
This is a well-researched, but sometimes dry history. I suppose it doesn't help much that everytime they quote the story's main protagonist, L'Enfant, his convoluted and sometimes tortured syntax slows progress down to an absolute crawl.
Sam Motes
Tells the story of the building of the capital at Washington DC and how Peter Charles L'Enfant became the architect of the White House. The burning of the White House is discussed but it seems to be a foot note in the narrative which seemed off given the title of the book.
Kevin
Seems pretty good so far . Starts with a background of the French designer of DC
Melissa
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This contained many interesting insights into the time between the wars and the building of Washington. I enjoyed it as an easy read you can pick up again, if you take breaks.
Shawna
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Anti-L'Enfant for certain... The writing was not very readable.
Mike
Dec 28, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was not very good and I do not think I will ever finish......not worth the time. Stopped reading and did not finish....
John
Very interesting and worth reading to expand one's understanding of the origins of our capital city. And that Congress is the same as it was 200 years ago.
Russell Hall
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful biography of a man, and a city which still puzzles, grows, and confounds visitors and citizens alike.
Maria Carmody
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was not a slow read, as others have suggested. In fact, whether you like historical fiction or non-fiction, this is a must read.
Sacha
Dec 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting topic and people. Sometimes dull writing.
Michael
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An unsympathetic view of Pierre L'Enfant. Here was a man who likely suffered from mental illness and he is ridiculed throughout the book.
Diane Hanover
rated it liked it
Jun 16, 2015
Karen
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Aug 16, 2011
Nancy Rosenberg
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Feb 07, 2020
Ady
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Apr 18, 2010
Olivia Eaton
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Jan 27, 2014
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Les Standiford is a historian and author and has since 1985 been the Director of the Florida International University Creative Writing Program. Standiford has been awarded the Frank O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and belongs to the Associated Writing Programs, Mystery Writers of Ameri ...more

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