Discouragement, perseverance, victory!

I love history, especially Russian history. I love reading about the czars, the somber Russian Orthodox church, and especially the recent decades of perestroika, glasnost, oligarchs, and economic and political turmoil. I’ve been deep in reading about the oligarchs in the 1990s recently, so thought I’d try a bit of American history for a change.

1776 book cover

1776 book cover

I’d heard rave reviews about 1776, the book by David McCullough on America’s revolutionary war, so I thought I’d give it a go (It’s been sitting on my shelf, kindly on loan from my mom for like 8 months now!). I’d heard lots of recommendations – everyone said it was well-written, and talked about how surprised they were to hear how close the US came to losing the war.

Honestly, though, I wasn’t that impressed. I didn’t really like the book. Maybe all the reviews hyped it up more than it really was, or maybe I’ve just forgotten how boring I find it to read about war strategy, battles, and marching. Or maybe I’m more of a hopeless russophile than I thought I was. Whatever the case, I was a bit disappointed.

Nonetheless, the read wasn’t a total loss. There was the universal, eternal tendency to underestimate cataclysmic events. Everyone ALWAYS thinks the war (or recession, or whatever) will end in a few months, and they’ll be home and back to normal by Christmas! It was also interesting to compare the rich, crazy-patriotic, democratic Americans in the last part of the 18th century with the czar-ruled Russian peasants of that period I normally read about.

I found it also really cool to read about certain parts of the war. The book talks a lot about what misfits and rabble the American troops were, the huge mistakes George Washington, and other army leaders made and how close they came to losing the war. It’s inspiring to read about the series of mistakes, losses, setbacks, discouragement, hope, perseverance, courage, obedience, and ultimately victory!

There were a few quotes I really liked, like this one from Henry Knox,

“We want great men who, when fortune frowns, will not be discouraged.”

(How interesting. Is that really the measure of a great man? Does simple perseverance make you really great? I’ve never thought about it that way, but I think I agree!)

Or these from General George Washington,

“…it is vain to ruminate upon, or even reflect upon the authors of our present misfortunes. We should rather exert ourselves, and look forward with hopes…”

“Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.”

Inspiring, no?

Also, I would really like to read more about George Washington – such a fascinating character. I have to admit – I found myself starting to plan an East Coast road trip for economist husband and I. Wouldn’t it be fun to start in Maine, and take in the ocean, Appalachians, NYC, Boston, Colonial Williamsburg, old Revolutionary and Civil War historic sites, Washington DC and Mount Vernon?

Did anyone else read the book? What did you think?

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