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Best of the Web

Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (1993)

This is an encyclopedic study of the Federalist period. Nine hundred pages long, it is not the sort of book you pick up for a casual read. But it is comprehensive in its coverage—the most complete single-volume political history of the period.

Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2001)

This is a highly-readable examination of key figures and seminal events from the Federalist period. Challenging historians who argue that the "founding fathers" get more attention than they deserve, this book operates from the premise that a handful of individuals were critical to the success of the new nation.

Don Higginbotham, George Washington: Uniting a Nation (2002)

Higginbotham, a leading Washington scholar, explores the importance of Washington as a critical and unparalleled source of unity during the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary periods. This is a not a comprehensive biography—more a reflection on the peculiar challenges of American nation-building and the distinctive traits Washington brought to his roles as general and president.

Thomas Slaughter, The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution (1988)

As the title suggests, Slaughter links the Whiskey Rebellion, ideologically and politically, to the American Revolution. The book is academic, and not entirely free of historians' jargon, but for the most part the narrative is compelling and the portrait of the frontier life is memorable.

Joseph Charles, The Origins of the American Party System (1956)

The emphases within this little classic have been challenged by more recent studies. But as a brief introduction to the development of America's first party system, Charles's book is still the place to start.

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