Read the Revolution Speaker Series
Bringing celebrated authors and historians to the Museum of the American Revolution for lively, facilitated discussions of their work, evening programs in the Read the Revolution Speaker Series explore compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government.
Each program hosted by Museum President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson includes a special presentation in Liberty Hall with an invitation to see a featured artifact related to the talk and to enjoy refreshments at a cash bar reception prior to the event, a live Q&A with online and onsite audiences, and opportunities to purchase a book signed by the author.
The annual Read the Revolution Speaker Series is inspired by the Read the Revolution digital edition, a free, biweekly excerpt from thought-provoking books about the American Revolution curated by Museum staff since 2013. Sign up to read more all year long, and order featured titles in advance online from the Museum Shop.
Get biweekly Read the Revolution featured excerpts right to your inbox.
Revolution Society Members receive complimentary access to the Read the Revolution Speaker Series events and invitations to an exclusive virtual event series to read and discuss select historical documents that inspire our favorite book titles.
2023-24 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season
Join us throughout the 2023-24 season featuring celebrated authors and historians in discussion about their thought-provoking works. Stay tuned for more speakers to be announced!
Lecture: “’What Think You of an American Fleet?’: The Rise and Fall of the Continental Navy”
Author and avid sailor Tim McGrath joined the Museum on Nov. 15, 2023, for a special presentation, “’What Think You of an American Fleet?’: The Rise and Fall of the Continental Navy,” to kickoff the Museum's 2023-24 Read the Revolution Speaker Series. Drawing on two of his award-winning books, Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea and John Barry: An American Hero in the Age of Sail, McGrath illustrated the life of Commodore John Barry (1745-1803) and his role in the Continental Navy, our first official naval force. The lecture is available to watch online.
In partnership with The Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff will join the Museum on Wednesday, Jan. 31, for a lively discussion with Museum President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson inspired by her most recent book, The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, and Adams’s attendance at the First Continental Congress in 1774 at Philadelphia’s Carpenters’ Hall.
As Schiff argues in The Revolutionary, Samuel Adams was a political genius who was rare for his ability to keep a secret and saw democracy as a virtue. As an early and fiery advocate for American independence, he did not preen for posterity. Adams wrote no memoir, resisted calls to assemble his political writings, and was often confused with his younger cousin John Adams’s prolific writing for the historical record. Elected to represent Boston in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1765, the Harvard-educated politician praised the 1773 Boston Tea Party as an act of resistance. In 1774, the 51-year-old was among the oldest delegates at the First Continental Congress at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson called Samuel Adams “the earliest, most active, and persevering man of the Revolution,” and he retired from political life in 1797 as acting governor of Massachusetts.
Past: 2022-23 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season
Lecture: Hamilton's Hub: The First Bank of the U.S. in the Creation of the American Economy
In October 2022, author and historian William Hogeland joined the Museum to discuss the establishment of the First Bank of the United States, hub of the comprehensive system of national finance created by the first U.S. Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, and the bank’s relevance today. The country’s first national financial institution, chartered by Congress in 1791 for 20 years, with a building completed in 1797, the First Bank is located directly across Third Street from the Museum.
Drawing both on his 2012 book Founding Finance (read an excerpt) and his narrative trilogy The Whiskey Rebellion, Declaration, and Autumn of the Black Snake, Hogeland traced conflicts and alliances among Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Albert Gallatin, and ordinary people who had financial ideas of their own; connected those conflicts to ensuing generations’ decisions regarding debt, speculation, foreclosures, and taxation; and revealed the startling relevance of founding American struggles over economics to our political struggles today.
The program is available to watch again online.
Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778 (University of North Carolina Press, 2021)
Author and historian Dr. Ricardo A. Herrera joined the Museum on Thursday evening, Jan. 26, to discuss his extensive new book on the Continental Army’s 1777-78 encampment at Valley Forge, uncovering what everyday life was like for soldiers during the darkest and coldest days of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on his 2022 book Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778, Herrera brought to light the army’s herculean efforts to feed itself, support local and Continental governments, and challenge the British Army. Highlighting the missteps and triumphs of both General George Washington and his officers as well as ordinary soldiers, sailors, and militiamen, Herrera revealed how close the Continental Army came to succumbing to starvation and how strong and resourceful its soldiers and leaders needed to be to survive. Read an excerpt from the book.
This program is available to watch again.
A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (Oxford University Press, 2002)
Author and historian Dr. Julie Winch joined the Museum on April 12, 2023, for a special presentation reflecting on her groundbreaking biography, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten, more than 20 years after it was first published. Joining Winch onstage was Atwood “Kip” Forten Jacobs, the great-great-great-great grandson of James Forten, who will reflect on how discovering her book — and his own family heritage — changed his life. Winch and Jacobs also discussed their involvement in the Museum’s special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, including the Forten family Bible, an heirloom that has been in the family for six generations, that Jacobs loaned to the Museum for display in the exhibit. Read an excerpt from A Gentleman of Color.
The program is available to watch again.
Lecture: “Gender and American Resistance to British Authority, 1765-1775: A Reassessment”
Author and historian Dr. Mary Beth Norton joined the Museum on June 6 for a special presentation titled, “Gender and American Resistance to British Authority, 1765-1775: A Reassessment” as part of the Museum's Read the Revolution Speaker Series. Drawing on her award-winning books, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution and Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800, Norton reflected on the advances in scholarship on gender and the Revolution that have appeared since Liberty’s Daughters was first published in 1980, based on her own additional research and that of other historians. She dealt with questions about men’s and women’s involvement in pre-revolutionary politics in the context of contemporary definitions of masculinity and femininity. Read excerpts of her books, 1774 and Liberty's Daughters.
The program is available to watch again.
Past: 2021-22 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season
Congress’s Own: A Canadian Regiment, the Continental Army, and American Union (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021)
In September 2021, Dr. Holly A. Mayer kicked off the 2021-22 season of the Read the Revolution Series with a discussion about her new book, Congress's Own. She discussed how this culturally, ethnically, and regionally diverse regiment’s story is a reflection of the union that was struggling to create a nation. Mayer also explored the regiment’s story as it shifts back and forth from the soldiers’ tents and trenches to the statesmen’s halls of power, offering vivid accounts of the Revolution that reveal how “Congress’s Own” regiment embodied the aspirations, diversity, and divisions within and between the Continental Army, Congress, and the emergent union of states during the War for American Independence. The program is available to watch again online.
Read an excerpt of Mayer's book.
Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2021)
In October 2021, Dr. Gordon S. Wood headlined the second event of our 2021-22 Read the Revolution Speaker Series with a discussion of his latest book, Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolution, a distillation of a lifetime of work on constitutional innovations during the Revolutionary era. He illuminated critical events from the imperial debate in the 1760s that led to the Declaration of Independence, to state constitution-making in 1776 and the creation of the Federal Constitution in 1787. Exploring how Americans have explored the nature of power, liberty, representation, rights, and other issues, Wood presented debates over the foundational legal and political documents of the United States with timely insights on the Constitution. The program is available to watch again online.
Read an excerpt from Wood's book.
The Blind African Slave: or, Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace (scholarly edition of long-lost 1810 slave narrative, 2005)
In his rare and powerful personal memoir, Jeffrey Brace, an enslaved man who won his freedom through service during the Revolutionary War, recounts his harrowing journey from enslavement to free farmer to abolitionist. Nearly two centuries later, historian and author Dr. Kari J. Winter brought this important work back into the public consciousness when she republished the memoir, supplementing our knowledge of Brace’s life and times with original documents and new material.
In February 2022, in her talk Reclaiming Freedom: Race, Revolution, and the American Story of Jeffrey Brace, as part of the Museum's Read the Revolution Speaker Series, Winter recounted her journey to uncover Brace’s extraordinary fight for freedom. Following the presentation, family historian Rhonda Brace, a descendant of Jeffrey Brace, and Museum President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson joined the conversation to reflect on Brace’s life. The program is available to watch again online.
Read an excerpt from the memoir.
Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War (Oxford University Press, 2022)
Author and historian Dr. Friederike Baer joined the Museum in May 2022 to offer a groundbreaking reimagining of Britain's war against American independence from the perspective of German soldiers, a people uniquely positioned both in the midst of the war and at its margins. The event marks the launch of her new book Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, released on May 13, 2022. This program is available to rewatch online.
Read an excerpt of the book.
Past: 2020-21 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season
Contest for Liberty: Military Leadership in the Continental Army, 1775-1783 (Westholme Publishing, 2019)
In November 2020, Lieutenant Colonel Seanegan P. Sculley kicked off the 2020-21 season of the Museum's Read the Revolution Speaker Series by offering insights into the key challenges faced by General George Washington and discussing how American colonial ideals shaped command, discipline, and honor in the U.S. Armed Forces. The program is available to re-watch for free online.
LTC Sculley earned his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is currently an Associate Professor of History at the United States Military Academy. He has served in the United States Army as both an enlisted soldier and an officer since 1995.
Read an excerpt from Seanegan Sculley's Contest for Liberty.
Finding Charity's Folk: Enslaved and Free Black Women in Maryland (University of Georgia Press, 2015)
In January 2021, Dr. Jessica Millward will discuss how slavery, freedom, and liberation were intertwined in the experiences of African American women in the Revolutionary era. Her recent book, Finding Charity's Folk, explores the experiences of enslaved Maryland women who negotiated for their own freedom. Through her research on the life of a single enslaved woman, Charity Folks, Millward transforms our understanding of slavery and freedom in Revolutionary America. Based on more than 1500 manumission records and numerous manuscript documents from a diversity of archives, Millward brings together African American social and gender history to provide a new means of using biography as a historical genre. The program is available to re-watch.
Read an excerpt from Millward's book, Finding Charity's Folk.
Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic (Oxford University Press, 2015)
In March 2021, Dr. Cassandra Good discussed her book Founding Friendships to shine a light on the men and women who took risks to form friendships with each other during the Revolutionary era, challenging social expectations but embracing founding ideals of freedom, choice, and equality in the early United States. Although they were both fraught with social danger and deeply political, Good argued that these friendships embodied the core values of the new nation and represented a transitional moment in gender and culture. The program is available to re-watch.
Read an excerpt from Good's book, Founding Friendships.
The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World (Liveright, 2021)
In May 2021, Linda Colley joined the Museum to discuss her book The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen, which traces the global history of written constitutions from the 1750s to the 20th century, modifying accepted narratives and uncovering the close and frequent connections between the making of constitutions and the making of war. Colley showed, through her meticulous research, how constitutions crossed continents, at times aiding the rise of empires and monarchies as well as the emergence of new nations and republics. The program is available to watch again online.
Read an excerpt from Colley's book.
Past: 2019-20 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season
Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf, 2011)
In September 2019, Maya Jasanoff revisited the story of how loyalists dispersed across the British empire, resulting in an enduring American influence on the wider British world.
Maya Jasanoff is the Coolidge Professor of History at Harvard University.
Read an excerpt of Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles.
A Fool's Errand: Creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the Age of Bush, Obama, and Trump (Smithsonian Books, September 2019)
In October 2019, Lonnie G. Bunch III discussed the dynamic process it took to open the National Museum of African American History and Culture in September 2016, in lively conversation with Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, President & CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution.
Lonnie G. Bunch III is the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Read an excerpt from Lonnie Bunch's A Fool's Errand.
The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America (Belknap Press, September 2019)
In November 2019, T. H. Breen showed how ordinary Americans, far from the halls of power and the fields of battle, turned a faltering rebellion into an enduring Revolution to create a country based on the will of the people. The program is available to re-watch for free online.
T. H. Breen is the James Marsh Professor at-large, University of Vermont and Founding Director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern University.
Read an excerpt from T.H. Breen's The Will of the People.
Turncoat: Benedict Arnold and the Crisis of American Liberty (Yale University Press, May 2018)
In January 2020, Stephen Brumwell traced Benedict Arnold’s journey from a once-ardent hero of the Revolutionary cause to its most dishonored traitor. The program is available to re-watch for free online.
Stephen Brumwell is a writer and independent historian based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Read an excerpt from Stephen Brumwell's Turncoat.
Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War (Belknap Press, January 2020)
In February 2020, Vincent Brown offered a gripping account of how the largest slave revolt in the Atlantic world connected Europe, Africa, and America, and speaks to our understanding of wars on terror today. The program is available to re-watch for free online.
Vincent Brown is the Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and American Studies at Harvard University.
Read an excerpt from Vincent Brown's Tacky's Revolt.
Our Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of American Revolutions (W.W. Norton, Liveright 2016)
In June 2020, Caitlin Fitz drew on sources and archives in four languages to address how citizens of the new United States compared their Revolution and republicanism with Latin America’s independence movements, in conversation with Museum President and CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson. The program is available to re-watch for free online.
Caitlin Fitz is an Associate Professor of History at Northwestern University.
Read an excerpt from Caitlin Fitz's Our Sister Republics.
Past: 2018-19 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season
The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation
In November 2018, Colin Calloway discussed his book, The Indian World of George Washington: The First President, the First Americans, and the Birth of the Nation, which spans decades of Native American leaders' interactions with George Washington and brings new focus to Shingas, Tanaghrisson, Bloody Fellow, Joseph Brant, Red Jacket, Little Turtle and the native nations they represented. Using the prism of Washington’s life, Calloway returned these individual stories to the forefront of the United States’ founding.
Calloway is the John Kimball, Jr. 1943 Professor of History and Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College.
Read an excerpt from Colin Calloway's The Indian World of George Washington.
Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention
In January 2019, Mary Sarah Bilder discussed her book, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention, which challenges our traditional view of how American statesman James Madison shaped the United States Constitution. Bilder explored how Madison, in revising his notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for later publication, changed allegiances and depictions of people like Alexander Hamilton in the years after American independence.
Bilder is the Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School.
Read an excerpt from Mary Sarah Bilder's Madison's Hand.
The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth
In March 2019, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discussed her pioneering book, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth, which used textiles and textile tools to trace the history of New England in this work, first published in 2001. Ulrich revisited the Revolutionary era with an emphasis on the power of ordinary objects to enlarge our understanding of the past.
Ulrich is the 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University.
Read an excerpt from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's The Age of Homespun.
The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution
In May 2019, Virginia DeJohn Anderson discussed her joint biography, The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution, which reveals how Nathan Hale, a spy for the American cause, and Moses Dunbar, a Loyalist, chose sides in perilous times. Through the experiences of two Connecticut men, Anderson illuminated the impact of the Revolution on ordinary lives and how individual stories were remembered and forgotten after independence.
Anderson is a Professor of History at University of Colorado, Boulder.
Read an excerpt from Virginia DeJohn Anderson's The Martyr and the Traitor.
Past: 2017-18 Read the Revolution Speaker Series Season (Inaugural)
American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804
In July 2017, Alan Taylor discussed his book, American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1840, which expands the story of our nation’s revolutionary birth in his latest work, challenging many common beliefs about the Founding era. Taylor is the author of many acclaimed books in early American history and has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History.
Taylor is a Professor of History and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair at the University of Virginia.
Read an excerpt from Alan Taylor's American Revolutions.
A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley
In October 2017, award-winning historian Jane Kamensky discussed her book, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley, which gives a rich and vibrant account of the American Revolution as seen by Boston-born artist John Singleton Copley, whose works profoundly shaped the artistic legacy of this dramatic era.
Kamensky is a Professor of History and the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University.
Read an excerpt from Jane Kamensky's A Revolution in Color.
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution
In January 2018, New York Times best-selling author Nathaniel Philbrick discussed his book, Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution, which explores the American experience through his bestselling books. In his most recent work, Philbrick provides a stirring account of the deep and tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.
Read an excerpt from Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambitions.
Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination
In March 2018, two of Thomas Jefferson's most distinguished historians, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, teamed up to discuss their book, Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of Imagination, which produces a nuanced portrait of the mind and character of our nation’s third president.
Gordon-Reed is the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School, and Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor Emeritus at University of Virginia.
Read an excerpt from Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf's Most Blessed of the Patriarchs.