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Bookmarks Issue: 
18-Sept-Oct-2005
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A-1776The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian examines the single year that ignited the American Revolutionary War even as both sides sought a political compromise. Through suffering, determination, great leadership, and more than a little luck, an ill-equipped assemblage of farmers endured a miserable winter to defeat the world’s greatest empire and bring independence to the fledgling America. In portraying the differences between the Georges (King George and George Washington) leading each side of the conflict, McCullough demonstrates the critical roles of motivation and morale. Some of the most fascinating passages focus upon the common foot soldiers and colonists who enacted the far-reaching events of 1776.
Simon & Schuster. 400 pages. $32. ISBN: 0743226712

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"McCullough has a singular knack for drawing from a wealth of primary historical source material—diaries, letters, journals—and reshaping it all into dramatic, even cinematic storytelling. … Now, with his latest offering, 1776, McCullough maintains his impeccable track record." Sam Weller

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"Mr. McCullough, who has chronicled the histories of the Johnstown Flood, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Panama Canal, as well as the lives of Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Adams, writes with a master’s grace and economy. His story line, pieced together from personal diaries, records and letters of the everyday soldier, is rendered with an immediacy and eye for detail that brings out the drama of that pivotal year." David Walton

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"This action-packed, ‘you-are-there’ account of the American Revolution’s first year should greatly enhance David McCullough’s well-earned reputation as the country’s premier historian. 1776 lacks the depth of his Pulitzer Prize blockbusters John Adams and Truman, but McCullough deftly employs his avuncular storytelling skills, honed on PBS’s American Experience, to analyze the strategies of the outgunned Continental Army and the British expeditionary force dispatched to destroy it." Ike Seamans

Mercury-News 4 of 5 Stars
"1776 is a worthy, if quirky, successor to McCullough’s acclaimed John Adams. It’s an exciting and elegant look at an important corner of our history."
Mark Johnson

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"For readers interested in American history, 1776 is a necessary delight. It is a potent reminder of the revolution’s fragility, the brutality of war and the messiness of history." Joseph Bednarik

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"McCullough’s greatest strength as a historian stems from his capacity to imagine other people’s lives. Each and every player in the 15-month drama comes alive in his hands." Jere Daniell

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The author gives no real sense of why men as worldly and wealthy as Washington would risk everything for what looked like an ill-advised struggle against the world’s dominant superpower. McCullough relies so heavily on the battle history—Washington’s tactics as commander, Henry Knox as artillery chief—that he provides little sense of the political or social conditions that led to the fighting." Jennifer Autrey

Baltimore Sun 2 of 5 Stars
"As the narrative proceeds, what appears at first glance to be a portrait of an army evolves into a tribute to the leadership of George Washington. … These narrative structures reinforce a very narrow view of patriotism—our nation out-competes the others—while masking a deeper patriotism, based on the American Revolution’s insistence that people must govern themselves." Ray Raphael

Critical Summary

McCullough’s reputation for telling a riveting story stands out in his latest work. The encounters that he examines and details he includes cut to the heart of what made 1776 a pivotal year in world history. His portrait of King George, although brief, goes beyond the superficial sketch of a clueless monarch that many historians usually offer. The author occasionally shows a frustrated and privately doubting Washington somewhat at odds with accepted mythology, but nonetheless burnishes the general’s heroic stature. Using Washington to drive the narrative may give some readers an unrealistically narrow view of the Revolution, but critics agree: this is history at its best.