The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution: 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff

In gearing up for the July 4th holiday, I decided to revisit the Colonial effort for Independence. These days I think the hardest thing about finding a book that covers this subject is that politics often comes into play. Either the Founders can do no wrong, and their mission was ordained by Providence, or the story’s focus will shift to spotlight the atrocities of the era such as slavery or the incompetence of command decisions. Fair and balanced is something that’s difficult to find sometimes, especially these days.

That’s why this book impressed me. The personalities, the triumphs and tragedies, the tactics, the motivations, and the possible x-factors are played out with an emphasis on fact, assessment, and perspective. The character and backgrounds of the people involved are touched upon, but with just the broad strokes so as to keep the narrative going. What was especially invaluable to me was learning of the mindsets and political entanglements that led to the Boston Massacre and other such preliminaries, giving a more holistic look at events otherwise glossed over in most history classes. When the war is engaged, the logistical problems faced by the Continental Army are examined in terms a lay enthusiast can understand, with politics taking a back seat and filling in gaps.

It could be argued that more detail could go into this book, and while I agree that it does leave a lot to be discovered, this volume is more dense than a simple beginner’s history. There is nuance and detail to had here, which makes it an effective overview of the Revolution and its players. Any reader who wants more will be able to know easily what they felt was missing and what they want to delve into further. Again, what impresses me most is the balance. This isn’t a dry book of basic facts, even if the battlefield issues occasionally overshadow other parts of the narrative. Where this book excels is by examining the questions and beliefs that we sometimes take for granted, reminding the reader what was at stake in the name of Revolution.

4 stars

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