Book Review: 1776, by David McCullough

I guess you could say that I either feel cheated by the school system that I grew up in for not engraining in me a knowledge of American history, or I cheated myself in not obtaining it, but either way I’ve been feeling lately that my knowledge of events that transpired in the creation of our country was sorely lacking. Actually, I tend to feel this way every year around Independence Day, but this year I figured I’d do something about it by reading 1776, by David McCullough.

Before opening it, I was a little unsure about what I would find. Could a strictly historical book be all that interesting? Would it just present the facts as they occurred? Or would there be so much embellishment and added dialogue to make me wonder if what I’m reading is actually what really happened? Well, after reading it, I’m pleased to say that all of my questions have been answered in pleasing ways. Yes, it is strictly a history book, but it is very interesting. It does present facts as they occur, but in a narrative that illuminates both sides of the conflict and reveals the histories and personalities of the individuals involved. There is a sort of dialogue, but it’s in the form of quotes from letters or journals and I never felt like any of it was embellished upon.

Actually, if you’ve ever seen a documentary by the likes of Ken Burns, you already have a feel for the type of storytelling that’s set forth in 1776. Throughout the narrative, I can almost hear David McCullough’s voice, which (whether in truth or just in my imagination of him) sounds a lot like Walter Cronkite, interspersed with quotes from correspondence which illuminates the inmost feelings of those involved in our battle for Independence.

I’m already a believer in the divine hand that aided in setting up this free country, so it was very interesting to read quotes from George Washington where he states that the “finger of Providence” was involved in “blinding the eyes” of their enemies to their true condition, because if they’d known, they would have easily eliminated the rebels once and for all.

All in all, this is a compelling read and an enlightening way to learn a bit about the origins of the United States. A historical book that does a good job at not reading like a history book.

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