Researching the American Revolution

Your source for information on the American War of Independence


James Madison in the Library of Congress, Washington DC

When researching the American Revolution, a good place to start is to read an overview history of the period. A list of overview histories is provided below. Another good place to start is to browse  web sites that are good sources of overview information. Lastly, there are sources on political theory and implications of the American Revolution on other revolutions.

Top Ten Research Tips

For a list of top ten tips for researching the American Revolution, click.

Selected overview historical accounts of the American Revolution in order of publication.

Ramsay, David, and Lester H. Cohen, ed. The History of the American Revolution. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1990. (first published in 1789)

Independence Hall Museum

One of the first histories written by a veteran of the Revolution.  Ramsey served as physican to the Continental Army.  He also wrote a history of the Southern campaigns entitled The History of the Revolution in South Carolina in 1785.

Sometimes, criticized today for errors and omissions, this history is first hand account that all students of the American Revolution should master. Also Ramsey copied verbatim passages from other people’s works.  However, in the post Revolutionary times, this was not viewed negatively as plagarism.

Ramsey interviewed many of the key leaders,  In addition, he kept notes during the war to aid his memory.  His volume helped create a national founding story to a fractious thirteen states.  Ramsey helped shape American’s views on the war and its heroes and villians.

 Warren, Mercy Otis. History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, Interpreted with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations. First. 3 vols. Boston: E. Larkin, 1805.

Allen, Paul. A History of the American Revolution. 2 vols. Thomas Murphy, Printer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1819.

Trevelyan, Sir George Otto. The American Revolution. 6 vols. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1899.

As Trevelyan is a British Author, reading his works are helpful to round out one’s interpretations of the Revolution.  For example, the last two volumes of Trevelyan’s work focuses on British wartime politics and the struggle between King George’s government and the British opposition.  These volumes are highly relevant to scholars today.

Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence military Attitudes, policies and Practice, 1763-1789. Norwalk, Connecticut: The Easton Press, 1971.

Draper, Theodore. A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution. 1st ed. New York: Times Books, 1996.

Greene, George Washington. Historical View of the Americn Revolution. Boston: Ticknir and Fields, 1865.

A grandson of the Continental Army Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, George Washington Greene published a series of lectures he gave at the Lowell Institute in Boston.  The twelve lectures are arragned by topic including the causes and phases of the Revolution, Congress, State governments, finances, diplomacy, the army, the campaigns, foreign assistance, and martyrs of the Revolution.   The last two chapters contain a review of poetry and literature during the Rebellion.

Usually appendices are rather dry, but readers of Greene’s volume will find very useful and informative statistical information.  For example, both Massachusetts and Connecticut provided more troops to the Continental Army than the more populous Virginia.  While no sources are provided for the data, a review will provide interesting areas for more study.

Johnson, Donald F. Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution. Early American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020.

Martin, James Kirby. Insurrection: The American Revolution and Its Meaning, 2019.

McCullough, David G. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Stephenson, Michael. Patriot Battles: How the War of Independence Was Fought. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

Taylor, Alan. American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804. First edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Hoock, Holger. Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth. First edition. New York: Crown Publishing, 2017.

Martin, James Kirby, and David L Preston. Theaters of the American Revolution: Northern, Middle, Southern, Western, Naval. First. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2017.

Fleming, Thomas J. The Strategy of Victory: How General George Washington Won the American Revolution, 2017.

Web Sites with good overview information

American Revolution historiographic Timeline

A concise and well-reasoned overview of the various interpretations of the Revolution starting right after the war and continuing through present day.  To view the timeline developed by Michael Hattem in August 2017 click on the following link.

Michael Hattem’s Historiographical Timeline

Journal of the American Revolution

A daily journal of insightful, peer reviewed articles by eminent Revolutionary War Scholars.  The Journal archives contain over 5 years of articles on both little know events and major battles.  It is a “go to” source.


National Park Service

Survey of Historical Places Web Site

Political Theory and Implications on other revolutions

Israel, Jonathan. The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.



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