David McCullough’s 1776 investigates multiple thematic and constant aspects of the historical events that took place within the end of the 18th century. Since the work is written from the perspective of both the British and American commanders, it focuses more on the element of military strategy and does not place special emphasis on the philosophical approach of the Founding Fathers. McCullough also delves into the topic of leadership, he does this by analyzing theories on leaderships and assessing the historical figures in the work through nuanced and clear portraits of the leading commanders. Lastly, the most important central thesis of the work focuses on idealism and practicality and how they appeared in different events during the conflict. McCullough investigates while the Founding Fathers sparked the movements through philosophical enlightenment, many who served on the American side of the war were simply looking for practical solutions to issues such as unemployment, fear for their profits, and other factors that the British may influence if they succeeded. As such, the idealistic notions that were prominent during the conflict were only secondary to the practical and realistic reasons for the military progress that were observed from the American side.
McCullough included a large body of primary sources in the writing of 1776. The sources consisted of letters, diaries, and the earliest history books which covered the events. He also consulted an even larger catalogue of secondary sources which mostly consisted of history textbooks and biographies (McCullough, 331). McCullough chose sources that centered around events in the 1770s which were not often talked about, but vital in the history of the USA. The title 1776 was chosen because he became interested in events that took place in that year but were not as commonly known (Fischer, 2019). My favourite story from 1776 is the Retreat of George Washington in chapter seven (McCullough, 273). This is because McCullough gives great insight into both the successes and failures of a great leader and the coping strategies that were taken to return to a strong position.
Fischer, David Hackett. “David McCullough’s 1776.” Review of 1776, by David McCullough. The Massachusetts Society Sons of the American Revolution, 2019.
McCullough, David. 1776. Simon & Schuster, 2006.