I bought my copy of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. For the view from the another side check out my review of My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
About Alexander Hamilton:
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.
The #1 New York Times bestseller, and the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton!
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.
“Grand-scale biography at its best—thorough, insightful, consistently fair, and superbly written…A genuinely great book.” —David McCullough
“A robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.” – Joseph Ellis
About the Author:
Ron Chernow is the prizewinning author of seven books and the recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. His first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award; Washington: A Life won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography; and Alexander Hamilton—the inspiration for the Broadway musical—won the George Washington Book Prize. His other books include The Warburgs, The Death of the Banker, Titan, and Grant. A past president of PEN America, Chernow has been the recipient of eight honorary doctorates. He resides in Brooklyn, New York.
I have not had the opportunity to see the play Hamilton (since moving to Montana I don’t get to see as many plays as when I lived in New Jersey.) When it streamed I relished the chance to enjoy the sensation that everyone was exclaiming over. I thoroughly enjoyed the performances and have been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack ad nauseum. If you read my reviews you know I don’t cover much in the way of American history but have been wanting read more. I knew that the play didn’t hie to history so I figured I’d go to the source.
Let me first note that this book reads very easy; it’s like reading fiction which if you ask me is the most amazing thing you can write about a non fiction book. Especially one as weighty (in both senses of the word) as this. In noting that weight I will grant that this book is not going to be for everyone. I happen to love doorstopper books; I read very quickly so I enjoy a book that takes me more than a day to read. Also, history.
Not everyone goes gaga for the past but 98% of my reading takes place in times long ago so it’s a comfort zone. But I will say if you are looking for an in depth read about one of our Founding Fathers this is a good place to start. It is very – and I do mean very – pro Hamilton. Mr. Chernow loves his protagonist oftentimes to the point of ignoring his lessor angels. I do not doubt that Mr. Hamilton was an amazing man and astoundingly intelligent but he was not perfect. He was a bit obsessed with his place in society and I suspect probably a titch obnoxious.
All that being written I was engrossed in the book. I have noted many a time that I have not done much reading either fiction or non in the American history arena. I have decided to try and correct that this year. Hamilton is the lengthiest book on my reading list and the most educational. It has been a while since I’ve been in a classroom. But don’t take that to mean that reading this book is like reading a textbook because it’s not. Mr. Chernow really does bring the period and the people who inhabit it alive. I was never bored and I find that I want to find books on the other players in the time period.
Mr. Chernow obviously loves his Hamilton. You get that sense from the start and I am left wondering if this has left something unwritten. Hamilton was a brilliant man – of that there is no doubt – but does Mr. Chernow do him justice by not fully exploring his darker aspects? He was a man of his time and those times were very, very different than those in which we live now. He may not have liked slavery but as the current headlines attest, Mr. Hamilton was a participant in it. Does that change his impact on our history? I don’t know. How can we look at him through today’s lens?
All in all this was a very good read and I am very glad I spent the time with this Founding Father. While learning about him I also brushed up on some American history.
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