Hot Best Seller

The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783

Availability: Ready to download

In one of the most “exciting and engaging” (Gordon S. Wood) histories of the American founding in decades, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Joseph J. Ellis offers an epic account of the origins and clashing ideologies of America’s revolutionary era, recovering a war more brutal, and more disorienting, than any in our history, save perhaps the Civil War. For more than two ce In one of the most “exciting and engaging” (Gordon S. Wood) histories of the American founding in decades, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Joseph J. Ellis offers an epic account of the origins and clashing ideologies of America’s revolutionary era, recovering a war more brutal, and more disorienting, than any in our history, save perhaps the Civil War. For more than two centuries, historians have debated the history of the American Revolution, disputing its roots, its provenance, and above all, its meaning. These questions have intrigued Ellis—one of our most celebrated scholars of American history—throughout his entire career. With this much-anticipated volume, he at last brings the story of the revolution to vivid life, with “surprising relevance” (Susan Dunn) for our modern era. Completing a trilogy of books that began with Founding Brothers, The Cause returns us to the very heart of the American founding, telling the military and political story of the war for independence from the ground up, and from all sides: British and American, loyalist and patriot, white and Black. Taking us from the end of the Seven Years’ War to 1783, and drawing on a wealth of previously untapped sources, The Cause interweaves action-packed tales of North American military campaigns with parlor-room intrigues back in England, creating a thrilling narrative that brings together a cast of familiar and long-forgotten characters. Here Ellis recovers the stories of Catherine Littlefield Greene, wife of Major General Nathanael Greene, the sister among the “band of brothers”; Thayendanegea, a Mohawk chief known to the colonists as Joseph Brant, who led the Iroquois Confederation against the Patriots; and Harry Washington, the enslaved namesake of George Washington, who escaped Mount Vernon to join the British Army and fight against his former master. Countering popular histories that romanticize the “Spirit of ’76,” Ellis demonstrates that the rebels fought under the mantle of “The Cause,” a mutable, conveniently ambiguous principle that afforded an umbrella under which different, and often conflicting, convictions and goals could coexist. Neither an American nation nor a viable government existed at the end of the war. In fact, one revolutionary legacy regarded the creation of such a nation, or any robust expression of government power, as the ultimate betrayal of The Cause. This legacy alone rendered any effective response to the twin tragedies of the founding—slavery and the Native American dilemma—problematic at best. Written with the vivid and muscular prose for which Ellis is known, and with characteristically trenchant insight, The Cause marks the culmination of a lifetime of engagement with the founding era. A landmark work of narrative history, it challenges the story we have long told ourselves about our origins as a people, and as a nation.


Compare

In one of the most “exciting and engaging” (Gordon S. Wood) histories of the American founding in decades, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Joseph J. Ellis offers an epic account of the origins and clashing ideologies of America’s revolutionary era, recovering a war more brutal, and more disorienting, than any in our history, save perhaps the Civil War. For more than two ce In one of the most “exciting and engaging” (Gordon S. Wood) histories of the American founding in decades, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Joseph J. Ellis offers an epic account of the origins and clashing ideologies of America’s revolutionary era, recovering a war more brutal, and more disorienting, than any in our history, save perhaps the Civil War. For more than two centuries, historians have debated the history of the American Revolution, disputing its roots, its provenance, and above all, its meaning. These questions have intrigued Ellis—one of our most celebrated scholars of American history—throughout his entire career. With this much-anticipated volume, he at last brings the story of the revolution to vivid life, with “surprising relevance” (Susan Dunn) for our modern era. Completing a trilogy of books that began with Founding Brothers, The Cause returns us to the very heart of the American founding, telling the military and political story of the war for independence from the ground up, and from all sides: British and American, loyalist and patriot, white and Black. Taking us from the end of the Seven Years’ War to 1783, and drawing on a wealth of previously untapped sources, The Cause interweaves action-packed tales of North American military campaigns with parlor-room intrigues back in England, creating a thrilling narrative that brings together a cast of familiar and long-forgotten characters. Here Ellis recovers the stories of Catherine Littlefield Greene, wife of Major General Nathanael Greene, the sister among the “band of brothers”; Thayendanegea, a Mohawk chief known to the colonists as Joseph Brant, who led the Iroquois Confederation against the Patriots; and Harry Washington, the enslaved namesake of George Washington, who escaped Mount Vernon to join the British Army and fight against his former master. Countering popular histories that romanticize the “Spirit of ’76,” Ellis demonstrates that the rebels fought under the mantle of “The Cause,” a mutable, conveniently ambiguous principle that afforded an umbrella under which different, and often conflicting, convictions and goals could coexist. Neither an American nation nor a viable government existed at the end of the war. In fact, one revolutionary legacy regarded the creation of such a nation, or any robust expression of government power, as the ultimate betrayal of The Cause. This legacy alone rendered any effective response to the twin tragedies of the founding—slavery and the Native American dilemma—problematic at best. Written with the vivid and muscular prose for which Ellis is known, and with characteristically trenchant insight, The Cause marks the culmination of a lifetime of engagement with the founding era. A landmark work of narrative history, it challenges the story we have long told ourselves about our origins as a people, and as a nation.

30 review for The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783

  1. 5 out of 5

    Josh Coe

    “Do we really need another book about the American Revolution?” “What’s left to say?” These were my first thoughts when I read the description of this book. We already have 1776 by David McCullough, the (in progress) Revolution Trilogy by Rick Atkinson, Nathaniel Philbrick’s American Revolution Series, Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, and Ellis’s own significant contributions to the subject, including the Pulitzer-winning Founding Brothers. But Ellis’s prowess made me pick it up, and I’m grate “Do we really need another book about the American Revolution?” “What’s left to say?” These were my first thoughts when I read the description of this book. We already have 1776 by David McCullough, the (in progress) Revolution Trilogy by Rick Atkinson, Nathaniel Philbrick’s American Revolution Series, Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow, and Ellis’s own significant contributions to the subject, including the Pulitzer-winning Founding Brothers. But Ellis’s prowess made me pick it up, and I’m grateful I did. A book charting the single fraught decade between 1773-83 could easily have been three times as long, and an author as capable as Ellis could have taken this opportunity to display his considerable research and writing skills. Instead, Ellis focused on only the elements most essential to an accurate retelling of the narrative, uncovering forgotten characters and motivations along the way. He succeeded at cutting through myths and modern perceptions to allow the reader to “occupy the past” and experience it as it was lived. One result of his restraint and self-editing is that every paragraph yields interesting information to be pondered and digested, making this single 300-page volume feel weightier than many multi-volume works on the subject. The clarity of the writing allowed me to appreciate Ellis’s major themes of sovereignty and liberty. He understands the revolutionary struggle as a battle for sovereign control, first by the King George III and the British Parliament, and then by the leaders of the fledgling United States. Ellis also emphasized the importance of the idea of liberty for the revolutionaries, but asks the obvious question, “How did a liberty-obsessed rebellion fail to extend liberty to all its constituents?” Ellis provides adequate answers to this question, and makes a point to recount the contributions and experiences of many factions of American society involved in the Cause, including African American slaves, Native Americans, and women. If I have any complaint at all, it is with the profiles of minor figures that separate each chapter of the book. I believe I understand the purpose of them, as some of the profiles highlighted individuals from the disadvantaged groups listed above, and I usually really enjoy creative formats. But these entries felt like little more than Wikipedia articles. For some, they may be welcome glimpses into the personal lives of lesser known individuals. To me, they were a bit cumbersome and not quite long enough to enrich my reading. In all, an excellent book that managed to find something fresh amid well-trodden ground. Thank you to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for the advance copy!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    THE CAUSE, Joseph Ellis’ newest book, is by turns fantastic, engrossing and mired by small details. It manages to provide insight on a truly large scale over a series of events that we are still reckoning with, and on that level it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. However, the tendency to get lost in minutiae, intentionally, overwhelmed me. I wanted more of the great synthesis and much much less of the detail about figures lost to history. I have a better understanding of the issues that THE CAUSE, Joseph Ellis’ newest book, is by turns fantastic, engrossing and mired by small details. It manages to provide insight on a truly large scale over a series of events that we are still reckoning with, and on that level it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. However, the tendency to get lost in minutiae, intentionally, overwhelmed me. I wanted more of the great synthesis and much much less of the detail about figures lost to history. I have a better understanding of the issues that continue to animate the U.S. than I did before reading this book, yet I almost stopped reading it multiple times. I recommend it but urge patience; it is worth the struggle. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    This is Ellis' most comprehensive work, covering the causes or rebellion and the ensuing fight for freedom. I struggled to understand what difference he was bringing to the discussion; the description of the book did not make clear exactly what unique contribution to historiography the book would provide, nor did Ellis explain in his introduction. After finishing the book, I found it hard to name it. Much of what Ellis includes would already be known to many scholars. He does, however, synthesiz This is Ellis' most comprehensive work, covering the causes or rebellion and the ensuing fight for freedom. I struggled to understand what difference he was bringing to the discussion; the description of the book did not make clear exactly what unique contribution to historiography the book would provide, nor did Ellis explain in his introduction. After finishing the book, I found it hard to name it. Much of what Ellis includes would already be known to many scholars. He does, however, synthesize the arguments of past historians (Ch. 1 discusses Bailyn and Wood), so there is that significance. This is a great book for a popular audience who is looking to bridge the gap between academic work and History Channel "history", but again, for most historians, what Ellis has to say is nothing new. The characters he mentions he is giving voice to are names that most historians are already familiar with: Dickinson, Mercy Otis Warren; although, again, for a popular audience, maybe not so. Ellis does a good job at making the military history readable, particularly with the southern campaign in the war. His final chapter on the legacies of the Revolution also bring in new research into the larger impact of the revolution.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    With The Cause, Joseph Ellis proves that he is among the country's most insightful historians of the Revolutionary Era. His book presents a penetrating analysis of the political, military, social and (most interesting) psychological forces--both British and American--that underlied the principal events of the transformational decade that began on the streets of Boston and ended on the shores of the Chesapeake. In just 300-plus pages of limpid and witty narrative, Ellis unearths insights about th With The Cause, Joseph Ellis proves that he is among the country's most insightful historians of the Revolutionary Era. His book presents a penetrating analysis of the political, military, social and (most interesting) psychological forces--both British and American--that underlied the principal events of the transformational decade that began on the streets of Boston and ended on the shores of the Chesapeake. In just 300-plus pages of limpid and witty narrative, Ellis unearths insights about the thoughts and deeds of the protagonists that I had not fully appreciated before. Throughout, Ellis takes a fresh look at the convulsive events of the decade and keeps his readers mindful of the all-too-human passions and prejudices that had a decisive effect on its successes and failures on both sides of the Atlantic. As Ellis sees it, The Cause had both tragedy and irony built into its fabric--the failure to put an end to the tragedy of slavery and the brutal dispossession of Native Americans and the irony of a revolution determined to win independence that failed to create a unified American nation. This book is an engrossing read for anyone who wishes to understand more deeply the whys and wherefores of the cause for American independence--warts and all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    More an intellectual history of the revolution, with a few asides for significant battles. It’s an interesting book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike Stewart

    Ellis' take on the Revolution is remarkably clear-headed, lucid and entertaining. His explanation of the Revolution (he doesn't believe that is an accurate label) its causes, contradictions, failings and legacy is not a typical history but perhaps the the most comprehensible account I have read. For example he only mentions Lexington and Concord in passing; he's more focused on the politics on both sides that led to that moment. Nor does he waste much verbiage on Trenton or other iconic moments. Ellis' take on the Revolution is remarkably clear-headed, lucid and entertaining. His explanation of the Revolution (he doesn't believe that is an accurate label) its causes, contradictions, failings and legacy is not a typical history but perhaps the the most comprehensible account I have read. For example he only mentions Lexington and Concord in passing; he's more focused on the politics on both sides that led to that moment. Nor does he waste much verbiage on Trenton or other iconic moments. Instead he chooses to offer more detailed accounts of the actions of the British Parliament and the Continental Congress, the fighting in New York in 1776 (which he believes was the only time the British had even a remote chance of winning), Valley Forge and the War in the South. Despite this he does not neglect the people involved - Washington, Lord North, the Adams, Franklin, George III are all here. Also, each chapter concludes with a profile of a lesser actor whose experience illuminate our understanding. Ellis also has the knack for asking and addressing the questions that we don't often consider, e.g. why did the British continue to fight after 1777 when they knew that had lost? or why did Washington decide to defend New York in 1776? This is an essential book for understanding the Revolution and what it means to us today.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Kendall

    Ellis focuses on critical episodes in the revolutionary decade.The first part examines the movement of American patriots to the idea of independence. Part Two looks at Washington's escape from New York, and the Valley Forge winter, two ordeals which enabled the survival of the Continental Army. Part Three considers the protracted war in the South, the French-led victory at Yorktown, and the difficult peace process. Each chapter concludes with the introduction of a relatively unknown, but signifi Ellis focuses on critical episodes in the revolutionary decade.The first part examines the movement of American patriots to the idea of independence. Part Two looks at Washington's escape from New York, and the Valley Forge winter, two ordeals which enabled the survival of the Continental Army. Part Three considers the protracted war in the South, the French-led victory at Yorktown, and the difficult peace process. Each chapter concludes with the introduction of a relatively unknown, but significant, personality. This is history at its best, written in elegant style. If you are going to read one short book on the American Revolution, this might be it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pegeen

    Succinct summary of the Revolution; postulates that the Cause had a variety of foundational reasons that caused people to join in . These varied differences and distrust of a “ federal “ government seem very timely. Militia v Continental Army is for me the most eye opening aspect of this history . The “prudent” revolutionaries succeeded yet the price was the glaring evil of the continuation of slavery and the deadly decimation of Native Peoples. I listened to the audio book, and turned the narra Succinct summary of the Revolution; postulates that the Cause had a variety of foundational reasons that caused people to join in . These varied differences and distrust of a “ federal “ government seem very timely. Militia v Continental Army is for me the most eye opening aspect of this history . The “prudent” revolutionaries succeeded yet the price was the glaring evil of the continuation of slavery and the deadly decimation of Native Peoples. I listened to the audio book, and turned the narration up to 1.3 speed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    Another enjoyable and interesting history book by Professor Ellis. He has a way of describing motivations, and interactions bringing the history to life. He points out ironies, hypocrisies and foibles, evoking cringes, chuckles and jaw dropping. His books are always well documented and always easy to read. Another wonderful few hours with American History.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vegantrav

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Podbielski

  14. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nick Primer

  16. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joe Vertenten

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Quint

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan David

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tre Kay

  21. 5 out of 5

    jens christensen

  22. 4 out of 5

    Arnold Rosenbaum

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  24. 4 out of 5

    William Hicks

  25. 4 out of 5

    R.M. Candela

  26. 5 out of 5

    R. Foster Perry 111

  27. 4 out of 5

    Autumn Swinford

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lstcyr

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bill

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.