• The Cause

  • The American Revolution and Its Discontents, 1773-1783
  • By: Joseph J. Ellis
  • Narrated by: Graham Winton
  • Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (226 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A culminating work on the American Founding by one of its leading historians, The Cause rethinks the American Revolution as we have known it.

George Washington claimed that anyone who attempted to provide an accurate account of the war for independence would be accused of writing fiction. At the time, no one called it the “American Revolution”: Former colonists still regarded themselves as Virginians or Pennsylvanians, not Americans, while John Adams insisted that the British were the real revolutionaries, for attempting to impose radical change without their colonists’ consent.

With The Cause, Ellis takes a fresh look at the events between 1773 and 1783, recovering a war more brutal than any in American history save the Civil War and discovering a strange breed of “prudent” revolutionaries, whose prudence proved wise yet tragic when it came to slavery, the original sin that still haunts our land. Written with flair and drama, The Cause brings together a cast of familiar and forgotten characters who, taken together, challenge the story we have long told ourselves about our origins as a people and a nation.

©2021 Joseph J. Ellis (P)2021 Recorded Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Cause

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Modest history primer, wished for more substance

I’m not sure what exactly I expected from this book, but from the title and summary I believe it was just… more substance. More contemporaneous debate and competing philosophies regarding slavery as a pragmatically necessary evil at the inception of the union. Or more depth in the specific arguments about what exactly “the Cause” meant to distinct groups or individuals. The author often falls back on the idea that it was merely a nebulous phrase with no clear definition, but surely agendas were contemplated and plans devised. Very little detail on that front, beyond the cookie-cutter labels of federalism, confederacy and such. And though it’s not the focus of the book, native voices are sorely missing (as are abolitionists, for that matter). The subjugation of other peoples is treated as an unfortunate hypocrisy of the founding of a “free” nation, but this is exactly the place where these atrocities should have been laid bare. An opportunity missed.

If there is any takeaway from the book, it’s that all the characters in this story are flawed, both amongst the British and the colonials. But we already knew that, didn’t we? It’s only in the Epilogue does the author broach the issues of the willful ignorance of the true meaning of “the Cause”, and the miscalculations and mistakes which led to a disastrous next century, deferring the abolition of slavery until brought to war, and the removal and extermination of native peoples inconveniently standing in the way of the cause.

It may be too much to expect from this modest book, but more substance, motives and ramifications, would have made it significantly better. Perhaps the author, or another, will expand into the meat of the matter in the future. As it is, I'll give 4 stars, as it is good as a basic history primer, nothing particularly new, but a good jumping off point.

15 people found this helpful

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The more things change…

…the more they stay the same. Great summary of, and insights in to, the events leading to the Revolutionary War and the war itself. Explodes any number of myths about how the nation was founded and the reasons for the war with Great Britain. The origins of our dysfunctional national government are on display here, as well as the regional sectarianism that plagues us to this day. Or as some would say, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

4 people found this helpful

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A Crisp Review, But Little New Here

Joseph J. Ellis is a wonderful author and I've enjoyed most of his books. This one is certainly thematic. but it covers little new ground. That said, if you're looking for a quick run-through of the events and the sentiment, you could do a lot worse than this.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent in Every Respect

Joe Ellis is a premier writer of the Colonial and Revolutionary War era in America. This books lives up to his other books and more. I highly recommend. Tightly written, this book lays out both sides of the conflict, gives insight to the mindsets of those in charge, and describes with probity the relative strengths and weaknesses of the belligerents. It is a refreshing look at the era prior to and during the Revolutionary War.

My only criticism is towards the narrator, whose soft tone comes across as muffled at times. But that could be due to my hearing rather than the narrator himself. Otherwise, the narration was fine. It should not hold one back from listening to this book.

1 person found this helpful

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Enlightening overview

I have read many books on the Revolution, yet this book did offer new facts and new interpretations of their meaning. I particularly enjoyed the profiles, particularly Kitty Greene and Billy Lee. My only disappointment is that the profiles were not longer. And I would have welcomed even more profiles if those profiles were as well presented.
I have seen Joseph Ellis speak, and I enjoyed his commentary in “Benjamin Franklin” by Ken Burns. I would have preferred Ellis to read his own material, but Winton did do a capable job of reading the book.

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Spectacular

Never have I heard our history in such detail. An unbelievably amazing and harsh time. In just the 10 years covered by this book; the remarkable stories and events was extremely fascinating to listen too.

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Entertaining and educational

The most engaging book on American History that I have found. Easily digestible and thoroughly detailed.

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A great policy history of The Revolutionary War

A great policy history of The Revolutionary War from both sides of the Atlantic.

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Repetion

I really struggled to finish this audiobook. I wasn't fond of the way it was narrated, plus, I felt it was dragged out with repeating facts time, and time again.

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History interpreted in its time period

This books provides interesting insights into the eight-year war of independence from Britain. It is amazing that we won, given some military mistakes and the lack of support of the army provided by the independent colonies. To be more specific gives away too much, but this book is well worth the time.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-01-22

rubbish hated it please delete it from my liberar

poor please delete it from my liberary so dissapointed not good worst ever sorry.sorry nought out of ten ?????overall not for me
nounot for me ght out of ten