Historiography and 1776

1776 is a work of literature by David McCullough. It represents the events surrounding the beginning of the American Revolution. The book revolves around the actions of George Washington and other key participants of the revolution. It proceeds to detail the key revolutionary war battles and mentions, in passing, the signing of the declaration of independence. The author focuses on military events mainly rather than historical ones. There are depictions of battle fields and  maps created by the militia in the very war which the Americans describe as a revolution. Throughout the book, the author describes the scenes of war and the events that transpired to bring about the revolution. The aim of this paper is to examine the book and analyze the events under consideration.

The American Revolution was a critical time to the American society, and the citizenry fought to ensure that they attained and kept their independence. McCullough uses the concept of historiography to present his ideas and facts to the world. This concept is scattered throughout the book and evident to the readers as they get acquainted with the contents of the book and the events of the revolution accordingly. This thesis dissertation is a detailed analysis of the concept of historiography and the spread of the concept throughout the book. The author, a historian, covers in detail the military side of the momentous year 1776 and gives an insight into the events through the narrative that the audience will find captivating and enlightening.

To define historiography, one has to encounter the great man theory. Historiography is the methodology and the study of the development of history and historical events. It is the art of writing about history after a critical examination of the sources and events that took place in past eras. It is a selection of details by the author from an array of sources and relaying that information in a simplified manner for the audience’s convenience. The author then uses this information to write a narrative that includes critical examination of facts (Breisach 13). Historiography, in simplicity, is the art of writing about historical events and gaining a deep insight in them. It is the aim of modern historians to reconstruct an era of human activities in order to achieve a better understanding. Historians seek to simplify historical events and give the audience a literal piece of history that is easy to comprehend. In a nutshell, historiography is an approach to historical events, which transforms it into a base for historiographical literature.

The great man theory is a theory formulated in the 19th century. According to it, the historical events can be explained by the impact of the actions of heroes and great men of the time. This theory stipulates that, in every era, there were powerful great men who somehow influenced the course of history due to their intellect, wisdom and charisma. These individuals employ their political power and skill to nudge the populace into a revolution and, thus, create a decisive historical impact. This theory is effective because there is a number of people who influenced and shaped the march of events. It is evident that great men are a product of their societies; their actions would have been improbable without the social conditions and events built before their lifetimes. It is these conditions that shape their contribution to the society and aid in the development of the revolutions which they start (Eagleton 25-29).

Historiography, the great man theory per se, is a rampant theme in McCullough’s 1776. Being a military political narrative, there ought to be a few key figures that shape the events of the nation’s history. The American Revolution found its roots in the activities of a couple of great men: George Washington is one of them. 1776 was a good year for a revolution. There were a number of radical individuals determined to see an independent and revolutionary America. Europeans set up colonies in America. However, the Americans were starting to stir up a revolution and speak out against the colonialists. When they started chasing out the Britons from the American cities, King George was irked by this action (McCullough 47-50).

He spoke to his parliamentary committee and ordered to stop the insurrection. He chose few of his commanders to work through the revolution; this action only fed it. Americans wanted their freedom, yet the British army had a determination to colonize them. Decades later, few citizens are aware of the revolution that took place. The happenings of the decade that shaped their society are forgotten, but it is evident that the King had a hand in fueling the revolution. His actions were the determinant of the revolution and justify the great man theory.

George Washington was determined to have a united America. He was a strong leader and believed in leading his citizenry out of colonialism. He was at the battlefront fighting for his people and ensuring that the British army did not devastate the Americans. He was an aristocrat and believed in equal rights for all the American citizens. The Americans came to appreciate Washington’s leadership style and the manner with which he headed the country. Washington was a monumental leader in the eyes of his citizens. He was aware that they looked up to him in the revolution, and he led them through it to a triumphant society. This is yet another great man and hero who shaped the development of the revolution. Washington leads the Americans in a successful battle against the British army, after which they surrender and retreat to England. The American spirit could not be higher as they celebrate the great commander and leader that is George Washington. He is depicted as a strong leader who sparked his citizens to victory.

Throughout the narrative, McCullough notes that there are different monumental figures in the society and that they all aided in shaping the American Revolution. David McCullough’s writing is a prime example of the use of the great man theory. He depicts the protagonists as heroes in the eyes of their followers and citizens, and they used this status to enhance the revolution. It is evident that George Washington’s army was inexperienced and unskilled, but they, nevertheless, won the battle. Washington, being a great leader, directed the army of the Americans of different ages and backgrounds. The British, on the other hand, were more skilled and experienced, as well as better equipped for the battle under the command of William Howe (Austin).

Washington had inexperienced generals in his platoons, but he won the war and caused a successful revolution in the American society (McCullough 98). This is a show of a great man and a strong leadership style in the war that, despite the superiority in weaponry and skill, the Americans won. This was possible because Washington was a great leader and his strategies were successful in helping the Americans succeed in their revolution.

The great man theory is the best approach for the narrative 1776. The book represents fateful events, fuelled by the actions of the great men, which resulted in the revolution and counter revolution. It was King George III’s order that caused the reaction of the Americans. He was a great man in the eyes of his British subjects, and he led them in the battle against the Americans. America was a British colony at the time of the American Revolution. The King did not want the nation to attain their independence because they felt overshadowed by their superiority. He ordered his troops into the country, and since they were better armed and skilled than the Americans, their chances of success were high. Their arsenal was more superior as compared to that of the Americans, and they were sure of their success. King George was a great man, and his actions sparked the start of the revolution.

George Washington was a commander of the American army. He did not want to see his citizenry suffer in the hands of the British. The Americans emerged the winners albeit their inferior armory and skill, or lack thereof. Throughout the novel, McCullough tries to point out that the American army was inadequate in different sectors. However, he also notes that George Washington was a determined and dedicated leader who had the American’s best interests at heart. The Americans did not stand a chance against the British, but they had a great man for a leader. He united the nation and gave them the ability to battle against the British. His strategies were successful, and the Americans gained their independence (Austin).

On the contrary, the theory of the great man alone cannot explain the success of the American Revolution. There are other theories and factors that yielded its positive results. There are other factors that determine the success of the revolution such as the determination of the Americans to succeed and break out the British army. The American leader, George Washington, was determined to ensure that there was no more colonialism in the American society. This is one of the driving factors of the revolution.

There are political aspects of the revolution that McCullough does not include in the narrative. There was a quest for power in the American society. The citizens needed to regain control of their country, and wanted representation in government because of the taxes they religiously paid. The declaration of independence was a vital part of the revolution, which marked the end of the American colonial era. As much as the great man theory prevails in David McCullough book, there are other aspects of the American Revolution with which the audience needs to get acquainted.

It is insufficient to state that the great man theory is the only explanation to the success of the American Revolution and the battle between the Americans and the British army. The Americans had the determination and the drive to ensure that they were no longer under the colonial arm of the British government. The British had reigned over the Americans for a while, and the Americans felt the need for a revolution. It was time to break out of the shadow of the Britons, but it was not easy due to resistance from King George III. There are other factors that led to the revolution such as the American’s obligations to tax without representation. Under the rule of the British, the Americans were required and obligated by law to pay taxes to their colonialists, but there were no American representatives in the government. This was the key contributor to the revolution, but it is not adequately documented in 1776. The citizens of the USA felt the need to have representation in government because they were part of the taxpayers, and they needed to know the budgeting procedure of their finances.

In conclusion, although the great man theory is a substantial part of the narrative 1776, there are other factors that led to the revolution. The narrative focuses on the military rather than the political aspect of the revolution. There is a dominant political drive to the revolution; details that David McCullough mentions in passing should have made monumental headlines in the book. It is evident that there were two great men, one from either side of the revolution; King George III for the British army and George Washington for the American army. They led their armies to great lengths against each other, but the ultimate winner was the American army. Despite their inferior army and armory, they emerged the winners in the battle that was the revolution. In the end, they succeeded in attaining independence from the British.

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