The American Revolution was a watershed in American history and many books have been written to explore the events leading up to and during this period. I scoured the web, read through piles of reader reviews, and consulted several recommendations from expert sources to compile for you this list of what I believe are some of the best books on the American revolution.
From naval histories to biographies of famous figures from the time, these books provide an insightful look into the struggles for freedom that shaped the American nation. Whether you are a history teacher looking for American revolution resources to use with students in class or a history lover who likes to delve deep into the events that shaped history, these books will provide you with a better understanding of how America came to be.
Table of Contents
1. 1776, by David McCullough
In 1776, by David McCullough, readers are transported back to the American Revolution and presented with a vivid and detailed account of the pivotal year when the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.
Drawing on extensive research of both American and British archives, the narrative follows General George Washington and his troops, as well as their British foes led by William Howe, during the summer of 1776.
2. The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783, by Joseph J. Ellis Ph.D.
The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783 is a book by Joseph J. Ellis Ph.D. that critiques the popular narrative of the ‘Spirit of ’76’ and reveals how the complex dynamics of The Cause—a mutable and ambiguous principle—shaped the events that led to the war.
The book is a combination of action-packed military campaigns and insightful analysis, and forces readers to reconsider the story they have been told about America’s origins. The Cause deftly foreshadows the issues that would later complicate American history.
The American Revolution: A Visual History, by DK is a chronologically organized visual reference book that brings to life the events of this important conflict. The book, written in association with the Smithsonian Institution, provides readers with an overview of the most significant moments and people involved in the war.
Readers can explore first-hand accounts from soldiers and civilians, get a detailed look at the weapons and uniforms used during the war, and understand more about the events that led to the birth of the American republic.
4. The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson That Defined America, Then and Now, by Thomas Fleming
The Great Divide by Thomas Fleming is the story of two iconic American figures, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and the conflicting views that defined their presidential legacies. The book examines how the different beliefs held by these men changed the course of history and shaped modern America.
Washington believed in a strong central government and leadership by example, while Jefferson advocated for state’s rights, individual liberty, and a limited government. The conflict between these two men set the tone for all of American politics for generations to come
5. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789, by Robert Middlekauff
The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff is an acclaimed book from the Oxford History of the United States series. The book chronicles the struggle for American independence, beginning with the French and Indian War in 1763 and ending with George Washington’s election as first president in 1789.
The book provides a vivid and engaging account of the events of the Revolutionary War, including the Stamp Act, The Tea Act, The Boston Tea Party, The Battleof Bunker Hill, The Crossing of The Delaware, The Victory at Hannah’s Cowpens and The Triumph at Yorktown.
It also looks into the making of the Constitution in 1787 and the struggle over ratification. The book paints a vivid picture of the people involved in The American Revolution, from common soldiers to great generals, Sons of Liberty and African slaves.
6. Patriots, by Languth
Patriots, by Languth is an extensively researched book that brings the American Revolution to life. It follows the major figures of the time, including George Washington, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry – all of whom were influential in the fight for freedom.
The book covers pivotal moments such as secret meetings of the Sons of Liberty, battles and victories at Yorktown, and the creation of the new Congress. It is a gripping narrative that provides insight into one of history’s most important chapters.
7. American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804, by Alan Taylor
American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 is a magisterial history of the American Revolution written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Alan Taylor. He recounts how American resistance and local conditions spread like wildfire throughout Britain’s colonies, fueled by colonial rivalries between European empires and their native allies.
American Patriot crowds harassed Loyalists and nonpartisans into compliance, and the American Revolution eventually bursted in major battles such as Saratoga and Yorktown. Taylor goes beyond the major battles to document how violence continued spreading across the American frontier throughout the duration of the war.
8. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph J. Ellis
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph J. Ellis is a book that examines the first decade of American independence and its Founding Fathers. In this book, Ellis explores six key events during the Revolutionary period: the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, Washington’s Farewell Address which set precedents for future generations, Adams’ administration, the debate over where to place the capital, Franklin’s attempts to force Congress to confront slavery and Madison’s efforts to prevent it, and Jefferson and Adams’ famous correspondence.
9. Abigail Adams: A Life, by Woody Holton
Woody Holton’s Abigail Adams: A Life is a sweeping reinterpretation of Abigail Adams’ life story and the role of women in the formation of the United States. Through extensive research, Holton examines Abigail’s remarkable influence, her immense charisma and her passion for advocating for women’s rights.
Abigail’s famous call to “Remember the Ladies” was a precursor to her own declaration of independence, wherein she challenged traditionally oppressive laws on marriage and property rights by amassing her own fortune.
10. The Strategy of Victory, by Thomas Fleming
In The Strategy of Victory: How General George Washington Won the American Revolution, Thomas Fleming examines how the American Revolutionary War was won. The book provides an in-depth look at the battles that led to American independence and sheds light on how the creation of a professional army enabled the United States to win the war and secure lasting peace.
The book also examines the strategies and tactics employed by General George Washington throughout the war, including his use of intelligence gathering, surprise attacks, and strategic retreats.
11. Washington’s Crossing, by David Hackett Fischer
Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer, tells the story of a pivotal moment in the American Revolution when George Washington decided to risk all and lead his troops across the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776.
This daring attack on the exhausted Hessian garrison at Trenton was wildly successful and Washington’s men went on to score two more victories at Trenton and Princeton. Washington’s Crossing not only reveals Washington’s remarkable leadership abilities and courage, but also the painstaking preparation that went into the plan for these battles.
12. The Marketplace of Revolution, by T. H. Breen
The Marketplace of Revolution is T. H. Breen’s exploration into how consumer politics shaped American independence during the Revolutionary War period. The book examines how people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds managed to bridge their differences and unite in a common cause, relying on material culture and popular political protests to form an effective cohesive message.
The author argues that consumer boycotts played a major role in the development of this radical strategy, as it was something never seen before in political movements. The book provides an interdisciplinary narrative of how consumer politics helped shape American independence and serves as an innovative interpretation of mobilization during the Revolutionary War period.
13. From Slaves to Soldiers, by Robert Geake
From Slaves to Soldiers by Robert Geake is a compelling narrative of a unique group of men who enlisted to gain their freedom and fight for the American Revolution.
The regiment was made up of African-American slaves, free blacks, Native Americans, and white settlers. Through this book, we learn of the courage and dedication of these men to a cause they believed in, and their commitment to fight for the freedom of all American citizens.
14. Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation, by Ray Raphael
Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation by Ray Raphael is an immersive history of the Founding Era through the stories of seven historical figures. It follows the lives of George Washington and a private soldier in his army, America’s richest merchant who saved the nation from bankruptcy, a peripatetic revolutionary who sparked rebellion in seven states, a common village blacksmith, a conservative enslaver with an abolitionist son and Mercy Otis Warren, the most politically engaged woman of the time.
Raphael creates vivid images of these characters and narrates their stories in fascinating detail allowing readers to develop an intimate understanding of America during its formative years as a nation.
15. The Price of Greatness, by Jay Cost
The Price of Greatness by Jay Cost delves into the famous and mysterious feud between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, two Founding Fathers who helped construct the Constitution yet had a hard-fought disagreement over its interpretation.
The book argues that both men’s views were valid, and that the tension between their beliefs represented an underlying paradox at the core of the American experiment: the need to accept corruption in order to achieve economic growth. The book further reveals how this trade-off has shaped America’s history and continues to play out in modern politics.
16. The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution, by Sam Willis
In The Struggle for Sea Power, Sam Willis delivers a comprehensive account of how naval power determined the outcome of the Revolutionary War. The book offers perspective on how maritime dominance was decisive in achieving American independence, and provides an analysis of the economic, political, and social forces that shaped the Revolution.
The book also covers the naval histories of American, British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Russian empires during this period. The Struggle for Sea Power shows how naval power was a key factor in deciding the fate of the American Revolution.
17. American Spring, by Walter R. Borneman
American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution, by Walter R. Borneman is an immersive account of American history from 1774 to 1775. It tells a story of a fledgling nation struggling for independence against the British Empire and the American Revolution that followed.
The book begins with Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride to warn American colonists of the impending British attack. It then moves on to the battles at Lexington and Concord, where American militia fought off British forces and sparked a long and arduous fight for freedom.
From there, readers will learn about the American founding fathers such as John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Benjamin Franklin, and Patrick Henry, as well as the American soldiers who dedicated their lives to the cause of independence.
By incorporating newly available sources and research, American Spring is an insightful look at American history that allows readers to experience first-hand the American Revolution and its impact on our nation.
18. The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution, by John Oller
John Oller’s The Swamp Fox is a comprehensive biography of the famous Revolutionary War figure, Francis Marion. The book delves deep into Marion’s life and career, exploring both his public acts of heroism and his private life.
The biography chronicles Marion’s rise from a young man in coastal South Carolina to a leader of one of the most successful and influential guerrilla forces in all of America’s history. The book shows how Marion was able to outsmart his British foes, as well as the politics that surrounded him.
Oller also examines other aspects of Marion’s life: his relationships with family, friends, and subordinates; his religious beliefs and moral code; his love of nature and animals; and much more.
19. Lion of Liberty, by Harlow Giles Unger
Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation is an epic story of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry. Written by Harlow Giles Unger, this book reveals how Henry roused Americans to fight against government tyranny both British and American. He is remembered for his famous cry of “liberty or death,” and was the first to call on Americans to fight Britain, demand a bill of rights, and challenge the growth of big government after the Revolution.
20. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, by Pauline Maier
Pauline Maier’s American Scripture offers an insightful look into the birth and sanctification of the American founding document. Maier details how American colonists were able to declare their independence from Britain through hard and arduous struggles despite a lack of authority other than the power granted by themselves.
She also explains how Thomas Paine’s influential writings shifted arguments that made the declaration possible and further explores the group-editing job which angered Jefferson. Not only does Maier provide a thorough history of the Declaration, but she also examines its legacy in American society, from its largely forgotten past to Abraham Lincoln’s use of it to bolster American politics in the 19th century.