Recommended Books about the Founding of America

I put a note up on Twitter earlier today about how I think that the politics of this moment call for some reflection on our nation’s founding and offered to recommend books to those who are interested. The list below is a place to start. I will almost certainly fail to include some essential reading, and so may update this list as additional titles come to mind.

  1. The Federalist Papers (all available online FOR FREE here)
  2. James Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention (also available in full online for FREE here). [For a critical analysis of Madison’s notes and note-taking, I recommend checking out Mary Sarah Bilder’s Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention]
  3. Alexis Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  4. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
  5. Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence
  6. David McCullough, 1776
  7. Gordon Wood, The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States
  8. Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: a New History of the Invention of America
  9. Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
  10. Gordon Wood, Creation of the American Republic, 1776 – 1787
  11. Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans
  12. David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History
  13. Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, Slavery & Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution.
  14. Carol Berkin, Revolutionary Mothers: Women and the Struggle for American Independence
  15. Richard B. Bernstein, The Founding Fathers Reconsidered
  16. Richard B. Bernstein, A Very Short Introduction to the Founding Fathers
  17. Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution
  18. Richard Beeman, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution
  19. Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic
  20. Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America
  21. Douglas Bradburn, The Citizenship Revolution: Politics and the Creation of the American Union, 1774-1804
  22. Douglas R. Egerton, Death or Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America  
  23. Alan Gibson, Interpreting the Founding: Guide to the enduring Debates Over the Origins and Foundations of the American Republic 
  24. Eliga H. Gould and Peter S. Onuf, Empire and Nation: The American Revolution in the Atlantic World.
  25. Willi Paul Adams: The First American Constitutions: Republican Ideology and the Making of State Constitutions in the Revolutionary Era
  26. Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution
  27. Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution: 1787 – 1788
  28. Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution A Biography
  29. Jack Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution
  30. Carol Berkin, A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution
  31. Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution
  32. Ray Raphael, Founding Myths
  33. David Waldstreicher, Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification
  34. Akhil Reed Amar, The Bill of Rights
  35. Carol Berkin, The Bill of Rights: The Fight to Secure America’s Liberties
  36. Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  37. Fergus M. Bordewich, The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government
  38. Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic

Another great list to check out is this one from the American Revolution blog.

There are also a number of excellent biographies of prominent figures from the Founding period. If there’s interest, I may list those in a separate post.

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