by Jack Rakove
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Pp. vi, 488.
Notes, biblio., index. $30.00. ISBN: 0618267468
An award-winning work, Revolutionaries is a ground-breaking account of the creation of the United States as told through the actions and experiences of those who “invented” America.
Prof. Rakove (Stanford), revisits the Revolutionary Era and the Early Republic through the lives and experiences of those who helped bring it about and guided it to success. Although Rakove’s chapters follow events in more or less normal chronological order, each deals with one or more of the principal actors in the coming of the Revolution, in its events, and in the shaping of the new Republic, with some individuals appearing more than once. Revealing who fits into each category would be a real spoiler, but one can get some notion of who probably fits where by looking at the chapter headings: “Advocates for the Cause”, “The Revolt of the Moderates”, “The Character of a General,” “The First Constitution Makers,” “Vain Liberators”, “The Diplomats”, "The Optimist Abroad,” “The Greatest Lawgiver of Modernity,” and “The State Builder.” Rakove examines the personal background, ambitions, achievements, actions, successes, failures, frustrations, strengths, and weaknesses of each of these people, and in the process demonstrates how their collective actions and interactions helped create a new nation.
In Revolutionaries, Rakove gives us a highly refreshing perspective on the revolutionary era and the rise of the Great Republic.