Book Review

The History Writing of Joseph Ellis

Joseph Ellis has a wonderful idea for history writing that takes the biography to another level.  As any history reader knows, there are a lot of biographies on all of the founding fathers, let alone the biggies like Jefferson, Adams and Jefferson.  Some encompass entire lives, others focus on specific events, e.g. Washington as a war general or as a president, Jefferson in Paris or his presidency ect.  Ellis, not being one to repeat what’s already been done, has written a series of books on the character of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.  I’ve just finished American Sphinx about Jefferson’s character and just started His Excellency about Washington.  I’ll eventually post reviews for each.  Ellis, rather than focus on the events and hope the subject’s character shines through, instead focuses on the personality of the subject in relation to the major events that he’s involved in.  Through personal writing, writings of the day, and events of the day Ellis creates a picture of great human beings with great responsibilities and not only how they dealt with those responsibilities, but also how they felt about them.  I’ve only read American Sphinx in full, and random chapters of some of his other writing and the style is wonderful.  I would hope that he has books on Madison’s and Hamilton’s characters in the works.  As I’m writing this, George Washington’s character sits on top of my desk and I’m getting hungry to continue reading…

CM Sarda