Tag Archives: Biography

Alexander Hamilton

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency

Blood of Tyrants reveals the surprising details of our Founding Fathers’ approach to government and this history’s impact on today. Delving into the forgottenand often luridfacts of the Revolutionary War, Logan Beirne focuses on the nation’s first commander in chief, George Washington, as he shaped the very meaning of the United States Constitution in the heat of battle.

Key episodes illustrate how the Founders dealt with thorny wartime issues: Who decides war strategy? When should we use military tribunals over civilian trials? Should we inflict harsh treatment on enemy captives if it means saving American lives? How do we protect citizens’ rights when the nation is struggling to defend itself? Beirne finds evidence in previously-unexplored documents such as General Washington’s letters debating torture, an eyewitness account of the military tribunal that executed a British prisoner, Founders’ letters warning against government debt, and communications pointing to a power struggle between Washington and the Continental Congress.
Continue reading

The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell

What essential leadership lessons do we learn by distilling the actions and ideas of great military commanders such as George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell? That is the fundamental question underlying The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell. The book illustrates that great leaders become great through conscious effort — a commitment not only to develop vital skills but also to surmount personal shortcomings. Harry S. Laver, Jeffrey J. Matthews, and the other contributing authors identify nine core characteristics of highly effective leadership, such as integrity, determination, vision, and charisma, and nine significant figures in American military history whose careers embody those qualities. The Art of Command examines each figure's strengths and weaknesses and how those attributes affected their leadership abilities, offering a unique perspective of military leadership in American history. Laver and Matthews have assembled a list of contributors from military, academic, and professional circles, which allows the book to encompass diverse approaches to the study of leadership.

My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver (Environmental History and the American South)

George Washington Carver (ca. 1864–1943) is at once one of the most familiar and misunderstood figures in American history. In My Work Is That of Conservation, Mark D. Hersey reveals the life and work of this fascinating man who is widely—and reductively—known as the African American scientist who developed a wide variety of uses for the peanut.

Carver had a truly prolific career dedicated to studying the ways in which people ought to interact with the natural world, yet much of his work has been largely forgotten. Hersey rectifies this by tracing the evolution of Carver’s agricultural and environmental thought starting with his childhood in Missouri and Kansas and his education at the Iowa Agricultural College. Carver’s environmental vision came into focus when he moved to the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Alabama, where his sensibilities and training collided with the denuded agrosystems, deep poverty, and institutional racism of the Black Belt. It was there that Carver realized his most profound agricultural thinking, as his efforts to improve the lot of the area’s poorest farmers forced him to adjust his conception of scientific agriculture.
Continue reading

Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington

In this thought-provoking look at George Washington as soldier and statesman, Richard Brookhiser traces the astonishing achievements of Washington's career and illuminates how his character and his values shaped the beginnings of American politics.

The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge Companions to American Studies)

This Companion forms an accessible introduction to the life and work of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence. Essays explore Jefferson's political thought, his policies towards Native Americans, his attitude to race and slavery, as well as his interests in science, architecture, religion and education. Contributors include leading literary scholars and historians; the essays offer up to date overviews of his many interests, his friendships and his legacy. Together, they reveal his importance in the cultural and political life of early America. At the same time these original essays speak to abiding modern concerns about American culture and Jefferson's place in it. This Companion will be essential reading for students and scholars of Jefferson, and is designed for use by students of American literature and American history.

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize: “[A] commanding and important book.”—Jill Lepore, The New YorkerThis epic work—named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times—tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family’s dispersal after Jefferson’s death in 1826.

In the mid-1700s the English captain of a trading ship that made runs between England and the Virginia colony fathered a child by an enslaved woman living near Williamsburg. The woman, whose name is unknown and who is believed to have been born in Africa, was owned by the Eppeses, a prominent Virginia family. The captain, whose surname was Hemings, and the woman had a daughter. They named her Elizabeth.
Continue reading

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly duel, Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address, Adams’ administration and political partnership with his wife, the debate about where to place the capital, Franklin’s attempt to force Congress to confront the issue of slavery and Madison’s attempts to block him, and Jefferson and Adams’ famous correspondence–Founding Brothers brings to life the vital issues and personalities from the most important decade in our nation’s history.

Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory

An entertaining and erudite history that offers a fresh look at America's first founding father, the creation of his legend, and what it means for our nation and ourselves
George Washington's death on December 14, 1799, dealt a dreadful blow to public morale. For three decades, Americans had depended on his leadership to guide them through every trial. At the cusp of a new century, the fledgling nation, caught in another war (this time with its former ally France), desperately needed to believe that Washington was—and would continue to be—there for them.
Thus began the extraordinary immortalization of this towering historical figure. In Inventing George Washington, historian Edward G. Lengel shows how the late president and war hero continued to serve his nation on two distinct levels. The public Washington evolved into an eternal symbol as Father of His Country, while the private man remained at the periphery of the national vision—always just out of reach—for successive generations yearning to know him as never before.
Both images, public and private, were vital to perceptions Americans had of their nation and themselves. Yet over time, as Lengel shows, the contrasting and simultaneous urges to deify Washington and to understand him as a man have produced tensions that have played out in every generation. As some exalted him, others sought to bring him down to earth, creating a series of competing mythologies that depicted Washington as every sort of human being imaginable. Inventing George Washington explores these representations, shedding new light on this national emblem, our nation itself, and who we are.

Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello

When Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, he left behind a series of mysteries that have captured the imaginations of historical investigators for generations. In Jefferson's Secrets, Andrew Burstein draws on sources previous biographers have glossed over or missed entirely. Beginning with Jefferson's last days, Burstein shows how Jefferson confronted his own mortality. Burstein also tackles the crucial questions history has yet to answer: Did Jefferson love Sally Hemings? What were his attitudes towards women? Did he believe in God? How did he wish to be remembered? The result is a profound and nuanced portrait of the most complex of the Founding Fathers.