1776 by David McCullough

17761776 by David McCullough
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This non-fiction account of America’s year of birth is well-researched, well-written, and full of action and interesting characters. If you loved it, you have good reason to, but then you are probably a lover of history. I am not. To be clear, three stars at Goodreads means I liked it. On my blog OnWords I’ll stretch that to 3.5. I am not writing a negative review.

So why am I giving it only three stars rather than four or five? It is because of the subject matter, not the writing. I’m one of those who agrees with Henry Ford that History is Bunk. I also think the old saw that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it has it backward. It is those who study it who are so doomed. Just look at how the military is always preparing for the last war. After WWI we spent billions on battleships only to find that aircraft carriers and bombers were what was needed in WWII. After WWII we spent billions on those and found that we fought in jungles and tunnels where those were useless. The current war is being fought on social media and the military has no clue how to fight it. My point is that history is pointless at best, dangerous at worst. Virtually every major scientific breakthrough was made by someone who met with near universal resistance from all those experts who had studied the history of their field and thus were sure the new guy who hadn’t must be wrong. When I say history is bunk, I refer to recorded human history. If you study the history of species in general, or even humans over millennia instead of centuries, and see the dangers of overhunting to the point of driving your food source to extinction, for example, then you might learn something worthwhile. We need people who can imagine the future, not remember the past. But I digress.

The book is quite readable although it is limited in its scope, describing only the military campaign by the British and Americans in its title year. If you are into historical battles or colonial lifestyle, you will probably find this quite a good read. History was my worst subject in school and for me this book was a chore I undertook only because it was chosen by my book club. Although it was quite professional for the most part, it did have a surprising number of minor but odd errors, like on page 289 when the author said “Washington had reigned in his horse.” Perhaps he was confusing Washington with Shakespeare’s Richard III who famously said “My kingdom for a horse.”

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