American Revolutions

A Continental History, 1750-1804
Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
Length: 18 hrs and 54 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (285 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, a fresh, authoritative history that recasts our thinking about America’s founding period.

The American Revolution is often portrayed as a high-minded, orderly event whose capstone, the Constitution, provided the ideal framework for a democratic, prosperous nation. Alan Taylor, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, gives us a different creation story in this magisterial history of the nation's founding. 

Rising out of the continental rivalries of European empires and their native allies, Taylor's Revolution builds like a ground fire overspreading Britain's mainland colonies, fueled by local conditions, destructive, hard to quell. Conflict ignited on the frontier, where settlers clamored to push west into Indian lands against British restrictions, and in the seaboard cities, where commercial elites mobilized riots and boycotts to resist British tax policies. When war erupted, patriot crowds harassed loyalists and nonpartisans into compliance with their cause. Brutal guerrilla violence flared all along the frontier, from New York to the Carolinas, fed by internal divisions as well as the clash with Britain. Taylor skillfully draws France, Spain, and native powers into a comprehensive narrative of the war that delivers the major battles, generals, and common soldiers with insight and power. 

With discord smoldering in the fragile new nation through the 1780s, nationalist leaders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton sought to restrain unruly state democracies and consolidate power in a federal Constitution. Assuming the mantle of "we the people", the advocates of national power ratified the new frame of government. But their opponents prevailed in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, whose vision of a Western "empire of liberty" aligned with the long-standing, expansive ambitions of frontier settlers. White settlement and black slavery spread west, setting the stage for a civil war that nearly destroyed the union created by the founders. 

©2016 Alan Taylor (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"An epic, landmark history that places the American Revolution on a global stage while never losing sight of the struggles and sufferings of major and minor characters…. Taylor’s range is masterful. (Jill Lepore, author of Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

"American Revolutions is a game changer - a sprawling, ambitious history that forever alters our understanding of the Revolutionary War era." (Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People

"As masterful as its author and as pluralist as its title, American Revolutions combines strong narrative drive with a kaleidoscopic array of settings and characters. In vivid prose animated by prodigious research, Taylor reveals the fight for the independence of the United States as a bloody civil war in which violence and division were the norms and clarity of purpose the exception. This is a sweeping synthesis for a new century." (Jane Kamensky, author of A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley

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What listeners say about American Revolutions

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best book on the American Revolution that I have read

I finally got around to reading McCullough's 1776, and I read this book next. The contrast between the two books is striking. 1776 deals almost exclusively with the two Georges – King George III and George Washington. Despite the year, there is only a short reference to the vote for independence on July 2 and the Declaration of Independence of July 4. It's all military history. By contrast, Taylor's book goes into the Revolutionary War in the context of other revolutionary movements in America. He certainly takes no sides; everyone comes out rather beaten up in the book – the Patriots, the British, and the Loyalists. I gave the narrator only four stars because all of the Southerners he quoted, be they Virginians or Georgians, had Mississippi accents.he also consistently miss pronounce Monticello.

22 people found this helpful

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Best history of American Revolution

Allen Taylor is my favorite historian of early American history. This is my field so I have read dozens of popular and scholarly works on the subject. His perspective is new and I believe correct in placing the revolution in the context of slavery and self interest and little to do with the ideals of the Enlightenment. Also you get a much better sense that this was as much a civil war as it was a war for independence recommend for anybody interested in serious
history. . .

17 people found this helpful

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Outstanding history, thick narrative

This is a very solidly written work covering the American REVOLUTIONS (Plural) in the time period covered. It covers the American Revolution from multiple angles. Not just the common "Colonial" and "British" but goes much further into how the situation in France, Spain, Mexico, British Canada, as well as the Indian Tribes of the West. Not just between the Appalachians and the Mississippi but even onto the plains with the Mandan and Arikara (which the Narrator mispronounced as ar-i-KAR-a, it is actually a-RIK-a-ra) in the Dakotas.

He was also very focused on the American Slave experience of the Revolutions. As well as the white-male attempts to deal with it. Even those who owned slaves often saw and acknowledged the contradictions, but were unable to move past them.

My only real problem with this book was that it was "thick." Not in the literal sense but the narrative never really took off. It kind of bogged down at times as the author tried to cover a lot of things and do them justice.

Given my choice I wish he could have gone deeper into things and made this a "trilogy" (1750-1774, 1775-1783, 1784-1804?). To his credit he didn't get bogged down in the details of the Revolutionary War (battles, troop movements, etc.).

11 people found this helpful

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Learned a lot

Very informative. Lots of info that I never knew. Glimpses of personal struggles and accounts that you won't find in in school textbooks.

4 people found this helpful

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Very detailed and informative

What made the experience of listening to American Revolutions the most enjoyable?

It was thought-provoking to find out that Indian tribes fought for the British as they felt it was a better choice of two bad ones and also intriguing to find out that George Washington, this "holy" person in school books, hunted down and killed Indians in a Custer way. He had probably no choice at that time but it makes one wonder. The superpower of its time, Great Britain mobilized additional groups to fight for them, like freed slaves but also locals and often often it came down to pure civil war as loyalist fought against Patriots.

This book is full of fact like these, many of which I had no clue of. I guess lots of things Europeans like me no nothing of, Americans learn in school, either way this book is full of history put forward in very nice way.

What other book might you compare American Revolutions to and why?

To Try Men's Souls: A Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom is the first book in Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen trilogy about some of the same era, mostly around the declaration of independence. There is history brought to live by looking at the persons and giving them voice - based on facts or active history I believe the authors call it. American Revolutions by Alan Taylor takes on much longer period and it is full of detailed narrative, full of facts and interesting things, maybe a bit to much at times. Both these books are nevertheless great in my opinion whereas one is pure history lesson and the other is a history lesson wrapped in fact based drama.

3 people found this helpful

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Good book, but narrators accents aren't my thing.

Good book, but narrators accents aren't my thing. Enjoyed the book's notion of national struggle.

3 people found this helpful

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The Revolutionary experience through a kaleidoscop

The author examines the period surrounding the American Revolution though the eyes of many actors, not just the American revolutionaries and British government, but American Loyalists, the governments and colonies of France and Spain, the enslaved, native nations, women and the working poor. An impressive work and we'll worth slogging through, although the effort is sometimes a task. The author undermines himself by a tendency to "pick sides" and snear at the oppressor or victimizer, with some actors getting a chance to be both heroes and villains depending on the side of various societal clashes Taylor supports at that point in the book. The performance is fair, but undermined by the reader's tendency to LITERALLY snear at Taylor's villains, often performing their quotes with cartoonish foppish or thuggish accents, depending on their social station or nationality. Worth a listen despite it defects.

2 people found this helpful

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Good book

The author writes a very in-depth history of the Americas and the world in the 1700s. Good read but due to several cherry picked facts in some topics and what feels like a left leaning take on the period. I seemed like he was trying to give sympathy to the British in a war where both sides fought brutally he highlights the colonials brutality and skins over the British. Great book though, I have listened to it a few times and probably will again.

2 people found this helpful

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Meh, at best

I found this book to be much too heavily opinionated, relying even more heavily on subjective personalized accounts from unnamed people. the author goes overboard in trying to prove how not racist he is. on the positive side, I will say there were a lot of aha moments especially around the British reasoning for entering the revolutionary war. otherwise I found the rest of the book to be rather ho-hum.

3 people found this helpful

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tiring moral posturing

Good listen if you can ignore the constant moralizing. the author cant understand why 18th century men would violate 21st century cultural norms. The brutes! overblown opinion as to changing attitudes of women (republican mothers). well sir, that glorification of women and their roles in society has occurred since rome and athens. Yet the author sees a way to make the era more relevant by identifying nascent feminism. So, sidestep the affected superior posturing of the author and you get a good survey nontheless.

11 people found this helpful