Thursday, May 19, 2011

Robert Middlekauff's "The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789" (Steak Knives)

I don't recall much of what, if anything, I was taught about the American revolutionary war in high school, but I wasn't really paying much attention back then with all the good times and whatnot...

Coming back to a passion for history as an adult makes for a long list of things to re-visit and explore for the first time, and a comprehensive history of the genesis of our cousins to the south was an obvious requirement.

Middlekauff's "The Glorious Cause" was a bit of a brick - certainly comprehensive.  There's been a lot going on over the past two weeks (buying and selling homes and related grief), making this a longer read than it should have been.  Still, it was engrossing from front to back.  I'd certainly retained some detail of the history from various documentaries, A&E specials, pop culture, and simply absorbing it from related histories, etc. but seeing it in its full arc from early discontent to the continental congress was really gratifying.

I'd have liked more focus and detail on the course of the battles, but apart from that, the balance was well struck between narrative and context.  Middlekauff provided a decent sense of the personalities at play (recognizing that much of their motivation, despite correspondence, etc. is speculation a few hundred years out), and a more personal perspective on Washington as general (doubts and all) adds to an appreciation for what was achieved through the course of this 'glorious cause.'

Also quite striking was the scope of the role played by the French in making American independence a reality.  It's doubtful the revolution would have been a success without their direct support, and indirect support in drawing away the British focus by declaring war (along with Spain) in other parts of the Empire.  Americans would do well to remember this when they do stupid shit like renaming things 'Freedom Fries' and questioning French qualities in times of war.

"The Glorious Cause" is the first installment of the Oxford History of the United States, which touches on a number of key periods in their history, covered by different authors/experts.  It may take some time to get to them, but it's probably worth a closer understanding of where they've come from to understand their potential in the shifting geopolitics coming rather quickly down the pipe.

Washington crossing the Delaware, of course...

No comments: