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Friday, November 16, 2012

Setting The World Ablaze

Book Review: SETTING THE WORLD ABLAZE: WASHINGTON, ADAMS, AND JEFFERSON AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (by John Ferling).  Professor John Ferling is  considered one of the a top experts on the American Revolution. He  teaches at a college in Georgia. His account of that time naturally attracted my interest as I do love American History. 
John Ferling provides an  insightful portrait of three men who led the rebellion of the American colonies against Great Britain. Ferling compares and contrasts Washington with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, providing  an interesting case study of the factors that enabled a few remarkable men to go with the flow of  history and ultimately shape it.
Comparative history humanizes and adds depth to historical figures. The authors scholarly approach (think footnotes et. all.) to his subject  might remind one of the old school, boring,  approach to historical writing but Ferling overcomes this tendency with an evocative and dramatic writing style.  Washington comes across, not as an icon but as a living breathing human being, who has a few less than perfect points and lot of goods ones.
Not so much for Jefferson. Ferling had one thing good to say about him: the man could write. And that's about it. He was a lousy leader, a self indulgent  and rich Virginia planter, he was a racist who pretended to be otherwise.

And then there's Adams. Ferling's thesis here was that Adams, while ambitious,  did everything in his power to assure the independence of the colonies. I do think this book goes a long way to reinforce the impression many people got from reading  David McCulloughs Pulitzer Prize winning biography on John Adams. That is to say, that Adams supremely important role in the American Revolution had been vastly underrated and largely ignored.
I found this book to be a very honest a fascinating read…..

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