Best single volume history of the American Revolution
May 23, 2016 11:20 AM   Subscribe

My wife recently pointed out my lack of good history books about the American Revolution. I have (and loved) James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom and John Keegan's The First World War, but was struggling to come up with the best single volume history of the war in a similar style to those. There are any number of books that would be great if I wanted to find out information about single aspects of the war and the causes of it, but I want a single book that mostly focuses on the actual who was where and why.

Yes, I've seen this, which is far too Boston related to my interests, and the Revolutionary history book from the Oxford History of the United States, The Glorious Cause, has a surprising lack of Benedict Arnold based on reviews.
posted by caseusvelox to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Benson Bobrick's Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution attempts to cover both the context of pre-revolutionary colonial America and the events of the war.

The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89 by Edmund S. Morgan would also cover your question, but is probably less fun to read.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:34 AM on May 23, 2016

I came here to suggest the Bobrick book. It is a very good single-volume history that would serve as a good base for more detailed reading of specific events/people.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 12:14 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Piers Mackesy's The War For America is a good one-volume book if you want to read about the American revolution from the British side.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:25 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here's another vote for Angel in the Whirlwind.

One thing I particularly liked about it is that it doesn't present the men of that era as if they were demigods. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. And coming away from reading it, I gained a new level of respect for George Washington. He really, genuinely, was a great man and is well deserving of the title "Father of our country".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:17 PM on May 23, 2016

Barbara Tuchman's The First Salute comes at the AmRev from a different perspective and is not comprehensive, but it's a good read.
posted by CincyBlues at 6:38 PM on May 23, 2016

Also consider Robert Muddlekauf's The Glorious Cause.
posted by bearwife at 7:20 PM on May 23, 2016

With three votes for Angel in the Whirlwind, I think that's a pretty solid get, although I would be happy to hear other recommendations.

Comrade_robot: I saw that that existed, and, while I am half-English, I'd prefer the history to be focused more on the American aspects of the conflict.

CincyBlues: Although I have read and enjoyed multiple Tuchman books (Guns of August, Distant Mirror, March of Folly, Bible and Sword, and Stillwell), as you said, The First Salute doesn't fit my comprehensive request. But I will get that as well, because I didn't know it existed and she is a very good writer.

Bearwife: Is there a reason to consider it? As I said in my question, it has a distinct lack of Benedict Arnold, who, while maybe not all that important to the actual military conflict, has an outsized role in the American psyche. If the rest of the book is outstanding, I will add it to the list.
posted by caseusvelox at 12:39 PM on May 24, 2016

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