George Washington didn’t live in a vacuum, and I cannot develop a clear picture of his life and times without learning something about the people around him. These include other colonial and national leaders as well as the men who served in the Continental Army, sharing the fight for freedom that Washington led.



Some are household names in America, like John Hancock, famous for his bold signature on the Declaration of Independence. He is the subject of a 2023 biography by Brooke Barbier, titled King Hancock: The Radical Influence of a Moderate Founding Father.

Hancock and Washington were close in age, but grew up in vastly different circumstances—except for one. Both men lost their fathers at a young age. I look forward to delving into the details of Hancock’s life, and how he came to the Patriot cause.

Ben Franklin was a generation older than Washington and Hancock, and grew to prominence in Philadelphia as a newspaper editor and printer. But he had his hand in many pots, and Walter Isaacson’s biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, reveals much about his interests in science, government, and international affairs.

James Madison was nineteen years younger than Washington, part of a generation who would carry the country through another war—with Madison as president this time. Richard Brookhiser’s biography James Madison fills in the details, from a young Madison’s admiration for Washington to his own service at the highest level.



It would be a mistake to limit myself to the elites of the Revolutionary period, because the stories of ordinary citizens offer a valuable view. The wartime diary of James Plumb Martin, republished as Private Yankee Doodle in 1962, offers a foot-soldier’s account of life during the war. His colorful prose is entertaining and detailed.

I’m always looking for more to read about 18th century America, so if you have a recommendation, please let me know, via email to [email protected].