Books about Early American History

June 27, 2016

Books about Early American History

Celebrate the Fourth of July this year by learning more about our country’s history.  Check out this list of books about the people and events that have made America.  This list is grouped for adults, teens/young adults and children and can be borrowed from the Roslindale Library.


Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution
By Nathanial Philbrick
Recounts the events of the Boston battle that ignited the American Revolution, tracing the experiences of Patriot leader Dr. Joseph Warren, a newly recruited George Washington, and British General William Howe.

The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States
By Gordon Wood
A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the American Revolution explains why it remains the most significant event in our history. In a series of elegant and illuminating essays, Wood explores the ideological origins of the revolution–from ancient Rome to the European Enlightenment–and the founders’ attempts to forge an American democracy.

A People’s History of the American Revolution
By Ray Raphael
Raphael narrates the American Revolution from the eyes of the common people who, without wealth, authority, or privilege defined and shaped the Revolution. He argues that the Revolution was largely the product not of the patrician classes of Virginia or New England but of the common people. Through letters, diaries, and other accounts, Raphael shows these individuals – white women and men of the farming and laboring classes, free and enslaved African Americans, Native Americans, loyalists, and religious pacifists, acting for or against the Revolution and enduring a war that compounded the difficulties of everyday life and that resulted in a higher percentage of American civilian and military deaths than any of America’s other wars except the Civil War. Written for the lay reader, this work synthesizes recent historical scholarship on the Revolution and maintains the high standards of editor Howard Zinn’s “People’s History” series.

The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties
By Carol Berkin
Describes how the Bill of Rights came into existence, detailing how the Founders argued over the contents of the document, reflecting an ideological divide between the power of the federal versus state governments that still exists to this day.

Ethnic Americans: A History of Immigration
By Leonard Dinnerstein
For more than three decades, Ethnic Americans has been hailed as a classic history of immigration to America. Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers begin with a brief overview of immigration during the colonial and early national eras (1492 to the 1820s), focusing primarily on the arrival of English Protestants, while at the same time stressing the diversity brought by Dutch, French, Spanish, and other small groups, including “free people of color” from the Caribbean. Next they follow large-scale European immigration from 1830 to the 1880s. Catholicism became a major force in America during this period, with immigrants–five million in the 1880s alone–creating a new mosaic in every state of the Union. This section also touches on the arrival, beginning in 1848, of Chinese immigrants and other groups who hoped to find gold and get rich. Subsequent chapters address eastern and southern European immigration from 1890 to 1940; newcomers from the Western Hemisphere and Asia who arrived from 1840 to 1940; immigration restriction from 1875 to World War II; and the postwar arrival and experiences of Asian, Mexican, Hungarian, and Cuban refugees.

Becoming A U.S. Citizen: A Guide to the Law, Exam & Interview
By Llona Bray
Offers practical advice and tools on becoming a United States citizen, covering eligibility, the application, filing, interviewing, preparing for the exams, overcoming disabilities when applying, denials, appeals, repeat interviewing, and finding legal help, and providing information on little-known exceptions, ways to make the process go faster and easier, and rules for naturalization through military service.

George Washington: The Crossing
By Jack Levin
A succinct history of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton recounts key events and provides complementary historic paintings, illustrations, and maps.

Teens/Young Adults

The Boston Tea Party in American History
By Mary Hull
Presents the people and events connected with the dynamic episode called the Boston Tea Party, which helped to spawn the American Revolution.

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue
By Susan Casey
Susan Casey gives 20 remarkable girls and women the spotlight they deserve in this lively collection of biographical profiles. These women took action in many ways: as spies, soldiers, nurses, water carriers, fundraisers, writers, couriers, and more. Women Heroes of the American Revolution brings a fresh new perspective to their stories resulting from interviews with historians and with descendants of participants of the Revolution and features ample excerpts from primary source documents. Also included are contextualizing sidebars, images, source notes, and a bibliography.

Alexander Hamiliton: First U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
By Veda Boyd Jones
Describes the career of Alexander Hamilton, who rose from humble beginnings to become a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and the first Secretary of the Treasury.

How the U.S. Government Works
By Syl Sobel
Explains the three branches of the federal government–legislative, executive, and judicial–and how they work.

The American Revolution: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”
By Deborah Kent
Describes the events leading up to the American Revolution and recounts the course of the war that united the American colonies and gained them their independence from Britain.

Founding Brothers (DVD)
Volume 1 begins with a look at two of the many crises faced by George Washington during his term as America’s first president. At a time when any conflict had the potential to dissolve the fragile union, Washington surrounded himself with brilliant men who were bound by their undying devotion to America, but who were often bitterly divided about how best to serve their common cause. Volume 2 explores the ideological conflict that existed between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton and highlights Washington’s farewell address. Volume 3 portrays the bitterly contested presidential election of 1796 and the difficult administration of John Adams. Volume 4 concludes with the poignant tale of the reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson, and the story of the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

Colonial America: Building Toward Independence
By Richard Worth
On July 4, 1776, the delegates of the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, and thirteen British colonies began the journey to become a nation. However, the move toward independence began much earlier than that. From the first colonies at Roanoke and Jamestown to the first shots of the American Revolution, author Richard Worth explores the colonists’ every move from newcomers to nation.


The American Revolution for Kids: A History With 21 Activities
By Janis Herbert
Discusses the events of the American Revolution, from the hated Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party to the British surrender at Yorktown and the writing of the Constitution. Activities include making a tricorn hat and discovering local history.

Black Heroes of the American Revolution
By Burke Davis
An account of the black soldiers, sailors, spies, scouts, guides, and wagoners who participated and sacrificed in the struggle for American independence.

Becoming Ben Franklin: How A Candle-maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty
By Russell Freedman
An introduction to the life of young Benjamin Franklin describes how, as a rebellious teen in 1732, he ran away from his family and a Boston apprenticeship to Philadelphia, and how throughout subsequent decades he rose to become a distinguished statesman, renowned author and world-famous scientist.

The Signers: The Fifty-six Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence
By Dennis Fradin
Profiles each of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence, giving historical information about the colonies they represented. Includes the text of the Declaration and its history.

Betsy Ross: Patriot of Philadelphia
By Judith St. George
The personal struggles of the woman generally credited with having created the first American flag are set against the backdrop of the colonists’ fight for independence.

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