PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn Revolutionary: George Washington at War, Mr. O’Connell engagingly traces the genealogy of Washington’s rare feat of executive prudence and restraint. Mr. O’Connell presents his subject as a complex figure, stressing the formative experiences before Washington took command of the Continental Army and noting the chastening failures that he endured along the way. He describes Washington as a man who not only made his own way but deliberately crafted a persona from which he eventually became inseparable—austere, reserved, commanding. Public life in the British Atlantic world involved performing a role, with polite culture providing the script ... The extraordinary self-control behind the performance concealed strong passions that occasionally broke through—Mr. O’Connell describes Washington cursing and lashing out when his troops fled the British attack on Manhattan, for instance—but it served him well.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalPresents, along with a fascinating geopolitical chronicle, \'the history of an idea, and its transmission across time\' ... a superb survey of the perennial opportunities and risks in what Herman Melville called \'the watery part of the world.\'
Joyce Lee Malcolm
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalJoyce Lee Malcolm describes \'the most infamous man in American history\' as a two-dimensional caricature in the minds of most Americans ... that...deserves a fuller consideration, though not necessarily an exculpatory one ... The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold does show that Arnold’s hunger for recognition and refusal to compromise embroiled him in conflicts that weakened his commitment to independence ... Ms. Malcolm, a historian at George Mason University’s law school, describes how tensions between George Washington and the Continental Congress, whose members had adopted this wary civilian view of the military, fueled ever greater discontent within the Continental Army. With low pay and poor supplies compounding the problem, many officers resigned. Ms. Malcolm suggests that Arnold—helped along by his prickly personality and the trauma of a crippling wound—reacted by switching sides.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Cannadine presents the liberal spirit of progress as the hero of his tale. It guided Britain through conflicts, social disparities and political transitions while pointing toward a better society. Other chroniclers might have taken more notice of the fact that such progress had significant trade-offs, but he tells his own story persuasively and exceedingly well.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThere was one aspect of ordinary life, petty or otherwise, that deeply concerned Victoria herself: the marital fate of her children and grandchildren. The House of Hanover’s marriages could affect international politics, as Deborah Cadbury shows in Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking, and gave the queen’s aspirations a broader scope than 'merely' her empire ... Ms. Cadbury focuses on troubles in the next generation, particularly the hapless Prince Eddy, Edward’s eldest son... Ms. Cadbury stresses the human element of her story, not least the wayward personalities and unforeseen family rivalries that thwarted Victoria’s designs as monarch and matriarch ... Tragedy runs through Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking.
John B. Boles
RaveThe Wall Street JournalHe offers a sympathetic (though not hagiographic) view of Jefferson that emphasizes the differences between his world and ours. The constraints under which Jefferson lived—legal, financial, personal and intellectual—shaped his actions, Mr. Boles shows, limiting or guiding his choices and revealing them to be, when viewed in context and without today’s presumption of moral superiority, admirable more often than not, fully justifying the esteem in which Jefferson was once routinely held ... The contradictions—almost as much as the differences between past and present—make Jefferson hard to grasp. Mr. Boles’s splendid biography shows that trying to understand him on his own terms is more than worth the effort.
Larrie D. Ferreiro
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[Ferreiro] draws attention to people and events that George Washington and the other eminent founders routinely overshadow. The result is a familiar story told from a new vantage point. Revisionist in the best sense, Mr. Ferreiro’s book deftly locates the war within the rivalrous 18th-century Atlantic world ... Throughout Brothers at Arms, Mr. Ferreiro traces these interventions through the eyes of the foreigners who made American independence a reality, and he tracks the legacy of their actions ... Looking back from the 1820s, where Mr. Ferreiro ends his impressive chronicle—with Lafayette’s valedictory tour in America—it would appear indeed that revenge was a costly indulgence for the monarchies of France and Spain. Britain gained more from losing its American colonies than its imperial rivals did from helping them win independence.