If your New Year’s resolution is to read more and/or learn about Revolutionary history, we put together a reading list of our favorite books!
1. The Birth of the Republic by Edmund S. Morgan
Best for: a fantastic summary of the who, what, where, when, why
Morgan writes the definitive political and economic history of the American Revolution, which expertly lays out the cast of characters and their motives. Finding humor in things as mundane as taxation, this is an entertaining and scholarly introduction to the founding of our country.
2. Boston in the American Revolution: A Town Versus an Empire by Brooke Barbier
Best for: Boston-centric history
Read the riveting story about how a small town in Massachusetts ignited a period of rebellion in the American colonies. Each chapter highlights a key player and shows what historical sights look like in present-day Boston. If you’re in the city, combine your reading with a Freedom Trail tour!
3. American Revolutions by Alan Taylor
Best for: alternative perspectives
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor dismisses more narrow histories of the Revolution in favor of painting a broader picture that focuses on all of America, not just the thirteen North American colonies. This book is a follow-up to the fantastic, American Colonies, which also includes the history of the French and Spanish colonies throughout North America.
4. 1776 by David McCullough
Best for: military history
One of the most comprehensive popular histories of the American Revolution, 1776 guides you through the intricacies and emotions of war. It’s largely written through the lens of George Washington and British commander William Howe, making it ideal for those looking to learn more about the trials and tribulation of war.
5. An Empire on the Edge by Nick Bunker
Best for: the British perspective
Bunker offers a version of revolutionary events as seen from the other side of the Atlantic, using many British sources that American historians infrequently access. He attributes much of the buildup to Britain’s oversights, misunderstandings, and errors, which offer a fresh perspective to histories that tend to focus on political and military machinations.
6. The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood
Best for: academic vigor
One of the preeminent historians of American Revolutionary history, Wood writes an epic political, cultural, and economic history of the roots of the American Revolution. Wood argues that the Revolution was radical because of all that it accomplished and that later societal changes (like equality for women and minorities) were only possible because of the Revolution. The book is thoroughly evidenced to appease academic audiences, but still entirely readable for a casual reader.
7. Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Best for: under-represented voices
If you’re looking to hear from the disenfranchised, check out this “untold story” of Ona Judge, an African American woman in pursuit of her lawful freedom from America’s First Family. Coming to terms with the darker side of early American history and its legacies, this book offers a moment of reflection and nuance central to our understanding of the time period.
8. Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Best for: getting to know Revere and lesser-known Revolutionary actors.
This book explores the life of Paul Revere and his legendary midnight ride on April 18, 1775 – on what would become the eve of Revolution. Fischer also focuses on British General Thomas Gage and expertly mixes the colonial and British perspectives to offer detailed accounts of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Looking for some unique gifts for the loved ones in your life? Whether they live in Boston or are planning an upcoming trip, we have you covered with some historical and fun-filled gift ideas!
1. Craft Beer Advent Calendar
Upgrade your childhood advent calendar to a 21+ box of fun! This Twelve Days of Christmas set comes fully loaded or you can make your own with a customizable 24-day box. If you're local to Boston, Boston Bottle in the North End will also be selling their own versions. Our tour guide Rachel is bestowing this present on a lucky friend!
2. Ye Olde Tavern Tours Gift Certificate
There’s always more to learn about Boston’s history! Whether someone is a life-long resident or new to the city, they’ll love Ye Olde Tavern Tours’s walk down the Freedom Trail. Our history-educated guides know their stuff and make history fun! Along the way, guests will try three different New England craft beers at historical taverns to round-out a great experience. Take 20% off all gift certificates now until Monday, December 2!
3. Gaining Ground
Brian, our tour guide interested in maps, recommends this coffee-table worthy book about Boston. From beautiful images to interesting history and engineering lessons, you’ll keep your friends and family learning about a city that is both historic and ever-changing.
4. Boston Tote
Walk the city in style – and never get lost – with this Boston map tote bag. Tour guide Brooke uses this bag for her groceries, but you can also stash snacks for a Freedom Trail walk, or bringing your favorite book to read in the Common. No matter how you use it, you’ll feel like a true Bostonian with this over your shoulder!
5. DIY Boston Creme Pie Cupcakes
We love beer, but we also love sweet treats too. Our tour guide Kelly is especially enthusiastic about Boston Creme Pie, so she recommends these DIY boxes from a New England company. It comes with instructions and pre-measured ingredients to pair with kitchen staples. Boston Cream Pie was first created at Boston’s Parker House hotel, so you can bring a little bit of Boston cheer to all your holiday celebrations.
6. Boston in the American Revolution
Books are making a comeback and this is THE Boston history book – for all ages! Boston in the American Revolution provides an interesting and accessible history, with a lot of fun along the way. It has a helpful guide that links present-day Boston with historical events and focuses on some key players that every American should know.
7. Boston Tea Party Candle
If the history lover in your life loves some self-care too, check out this candle of black tea, seaweed, and driftwood. Elizabeth, our tour guide who also works as an historical interpreter for the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, will be gifting these this year. Everyone can use a little R&R after the holidays – make their relaxation revolutionary.
8. Trident Booksellers Gift Certificate
Our tour guide Kristen loves this local bookstore! There’s truly something for everyone at Trident – from events, to delicious food and local beer, and fun gifts. Or just cozy up to the bar with a good book! This versatile gift card (digital or mailed) won’t disappoint.
9. Boston Sports Trivia Game
The city of champions has had an historic run in the past two decades. Do you know any die-hard fans who thinks they’ve followed it all? Test their knowledge with this entertaining sports trivia game. Trust us, they’ll learn something!
10. New England Snack Basket
Spice up the traditional holiday snack basket with this New England tailored fare. You’ll get some maple sugar candies, cranberry pepper jelly, gummy lobsters, and so much more… all locally made of course!
No visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts would be complete without seeing the 3,000 years of history housed in the Art of the Americas wing. Covering four floors, you can tour North, Central, and South America in just a couple of hours… but our favorite exhibits feature Revolutionary-era Boston! The museum is open seven days a week, with free admission (donations always welcome) Wednesdays after 4pm.
1. John Singleton Copley’s famous portraits of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Joseph Warren, and Mercy Otis Warren
Copley painted these players in Revolutionary Boston as events heated up in the late 1760s and early 1770s (to learn more, join us on a Freedom Trail tour)! Copley was born in Boston and was the town’s preeminent portrait painter, but he married a loyalist and set sail for London in 1774, never to return. Our podcast, Beer Makes History, episode #7 talks more about Copley and the men and women he painted.
2. Paul Revere’s Sons of Liberty Bowl and other metalwork
Made of silver and engraved in 1768, this bowl honors the “Glorious Ninety-Two,” members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who refused to rescind a letter they signed protesting the Townshend Duties of 1767. You’ll find more of Revere’s work encased nearby this national treasure.
3. 18th-century Furniture
You'll have serious design envy when you see some of the gorgeously intricate furniture pieces. The MFA has several different items that were created in New England and are in amazing condition. This bookcase and desk will make you want to take out some paper and quill and write an actual letter.
4. “The Athenaeum Portrait” of George Washington
You'll be able to spot this painting pretty easily--you've definitely seen it before. Artist Gilbert Stuart first painted George Washington in 1795. Martha Washington liked the painting so much, she asked her husband to sit for another portrait, but Stuart left the painting unfinished so he wouldn’t have to part with it. This image of Washington appears on the one-dollar bill.
Ye Olde Tavern Tours is excited to create and sponsor a new podcast – Beer Makes History! Each episode pairs Boston’s revolutionary (and drunken) past with a craft beer. We hope you’ll drink, learn, and laugh along with us as we explore events from 1763 to 1776. If our fun co-hosts get you in the mood for more history, check out these other historical podcasts we enjoy:
This Washington Post podcast tackles each US president, one-by-one. Host Lillian Cunningham brings on expert biographers, like Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, to recap the life and legacy of every president. It’s understandable to go in order or start with the big names, but we recommend checking out some of the more obscure presidents (like Episode 13’s Millard Fillmore) to learn something new and find out why they remain in the shadows.
2. The Dollop
Two comedians get together to talk history. The catch? One does the research and one is hearing about the topic for the first time. Hilarity ensues. Topics run the gamut from “Ten Cent Beer Night” (Episode 15) to the “1919 Boston Police Strike” (Episode 256). Spoiler alert: they both end badly.
3. Hardcore History
Dan Carlin’s podcast has been around since before podcasts were cool, and a lot of his deep dives go back way further than that. From the Mongol Empire to a six-part series on the First World War, Carlin’s episodes incorporate history, thought experiments, and personal touches that bring history to life.
4. Back Story and Past Present
In both podcasts, historians explore the history of current events. Back Story focuses on a single issue each week, including major topics like reparations and more niche explorations like the history of solitude. Past Present tackles three issues in politics or pop culture, like Episode 177 titled “Ancestry.com, Vigilante Border Patrol Groups, and Cargo Shorts.” Both provide excellent fodder for dinner conversation with friends!