Monday, November 08, 2010
David McCullough Takes Readers on a Stirring Adventure in 1776
McCullough's book opens by showing King George III's stubborn refusal to heed colonial grievances. McCullough doesn't portray King George III as a buffoon, for he was not that. But McCullough does show how the British leadership, embodied by George III and Lord North, had become inexcusably and tragically disconnected from their subjects across the Atlantic. McCullough's narrative encompasses the politics of the war, but he brings a special focus on the military situation, which looked quite dismal for the American side through most of 1776.
When we look back on 1776 from the twenty-first century, it is difficult for us to appreciate how close the nascent United States came to losing its War for Independence. David McCullough's 1776 helps readers overcome that difficulty. He grippingly transports the reader back to those tumultuous weeks and months of 1776. Thanks to McCullough's consummate research and gift with language, our minds can relate with at least some of the anxiety that confronted George Washington when he wrote that "few people understand the predicament we are in."
Though he is sometimes (and sadly) dismissed by some of the more snobby (often left-wing) "elites" of academia, David McCullough is one of the finest writers of our time. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (once for Truman and another for John Adams) and the National Book Award, David McCullough is simply amazing with his Royal Standard typewriter, which he purchased secondhand in 1965 - and still uses today!
The main complaint against McCullough is that he emphasizes the "story" part of the word "history," and he's unapologetic in his patriotism and respect for heroes -- something that resonates throughout his work. Left-wing historians, who resent what they disparagingly call the "Great Man" approach to history, simply can't abide this, even if the patriotism and respect for heroes is justified, as is certainly the case, when dealing with people like George Washington.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in American history should pick up a copy of this book. Books like 1776 are what cause people to deepen their appreciation for history. I highly recommend it.