Paul Revere’s Ride – David Hackett Fischer, Oxford Univ. Press, 1994 – A great book for sparking an interest in history

The reviews on the back cover say it best:

“One of the most engaging works of American historical scholarship…”

“An unputdownable narrative…”

“A tale of adventure and intrigue so vivid and so colorful that it sometimes reads like a thriller rather than a historical monograph…”

I found Paul Revere’s Ride to be all these things and more. For me, it ignited a love of American History which has never gone out since I first read it 12 years ago.

As a product of the government schools I actually graduated from college knowing almost nothing about the history of my country. This is the book that helped me see history as a fascinating, richly intermingled tapestry of peoples’ life stories and experiences stretching back as far as the written word, and further.

I love this book.  My first time reading it when I came to the end, I didn’t want it to be over!  So I started reading it to my youngest sons aged 10 and 12.  They loved it. They would beg me not to stop reading, “No, Mom, you can’t stop there, you have to read just a little more!” They were so eager to know what would happen next that  I had to hide it from them.  It was great.

I’ve never found a book better at infecting the reader (or listener) with an interest in learning about the past.  And since as a homeschool mother, this is exactly what you are trying to do, this is a book you must know about!  It’s a perfect springboard into study of the War for American Independence and the Colonial Period. It introduces many of the cast of characters:  Sam and John Adams, James Otis, Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty.  More importantly, it introduces the events that sparked the conflict: the Stamp Act, the Townsend Act, the “Intolerable Acts,” the taxation without representation which so frustrated the colonists, and finally, the seizure of their arms.  And explains these events in a way that helps the reader understand why the colonists were upset enough about the situation to go to war over it.

I love the way Paul Revere’s Ride paints a picture of Colonial life: the attitude the colonists had toward their work, (something shameful to the British) the interest they took in the way they were governed, the interest they took in their laws… The interest they took in everything, really!  They were alive to what was going on in their world in a way we would do well to notice and emulate.

Most of all I love the way this book teaches the reader what it really meant to be an American, and the more Biblical worldview and attitude toward work, equality and freedom that went with being an American back then.

Paul Revere’s Ride is one of my most highly recommended books; perfect for high-school-age readers.  For a younger audience I’d start by reading it aloud, then leave it lying around and see what happens.  If it disappears you know you hooked someone!   (If it doesn’t, keep read it aloud to them.) And when they come asking for more books like this, try Fischer’s sequel, Washington’s Crossing.