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VIRTUAL BOOK TALK: The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783
Joseph Ellis in conversation with Robert Allison
George Washington claimed that anyone who attempted to provide an accurate account of the war for independence would be accused of writing fiction. At the time, no one called it the “American Revolution”: former colonists still regarded themselves as Virginians or Pennsylvanians, not Americans, while John Adams insisted that the British were the real revolutionaries, for attempting to impose radical change without their colonists’ consent.
With The Cause, Ellis takes a fresh look at the events between 1773 and 1783, recovering a war more brutal than any in American history save the Civil War and discovering a strange breed of “prudent” revolutionaries, whose prudence proved wise yet tragic when it came to slavery, the original sin that still haunts our land. Written with flair and drama, The Cause brings together a cast of familiar and forgotten characters who, taken together, challenge the story we have long told ourselves about our origins as a people and a nation.
Joseph J. Ellis is professor of history at Mount Holyoke since 1972, is one of the nation’s foremost scholars of American history. A best-selling author of twelve previous books, including American Sphinx, which won the National Book Award, and Founding Brothers, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Ellis’s commentaries have been featured on CSPAN, CNN, and PBS’s Lehrer News Hour. He has appeared in several documentaries on early America, including “John and Abigail [Adams]” for PBS’s The American Experience and a History Channel documentary on George Washington. His essays and book reviews appear regularly in national publications, such as The New York Times, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to frequent public lectures throughout the United States, Ellis conducts seminars for federal judges with Professor Gordon Wood of Brown on “The Founders and Original Intent.” He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, and Plymouth, Vermont.
Dr. Robert J. Allison is Professor of History at Suffolk University in Boston and also teaches history at the Harvard Extension School. He graduated from the Harvard Extension School with an A.L.B. before earning a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization at Harvard in 1992. His books include The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World, 1776-1815 (2000); A Short History of Boston (2004); Stephen Decatur, American Naval Hero (2005); The Boston Massacre (2006); The Boston Tea Party (2007); and the upcoming A Short History of Cape Cod. He has edited books on American history spanning from the colonial period to the 20th century. Professor Allison was a consultant to the Commonwealth Museum at the State Archives in Boston, and he is on the board of overseers of the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He is vice president of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, an elected fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and president of the South Boston Historical Society.
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