Robert Middlekauff is Professor Emeritus at the University of California Berkeley. This interview is based on his new book, Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader (Knopf, February 2015).
JF: What led you to write Washington’s Revolution
RM: Interest in Washington. I wrote a book, The Glorious Cause, several years ago about the American Revolution in which he figured, and, at that time, learned much about him, but my curiosity was not fully satisfied even though I revised that book in 2005. In fact, doing the revision increased my interest. I was strongly encouraged by my old teacher, E. S. Morgan, to have another crack at Washington.
JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Washington’s Revolution?
RM: The argument is that Washington grew intellectually and morally as the Revolution developed. The nature of much of that growth revolved around Washington’s conception of what was at stake in the war with Britain: freedom and the union of American states, and the importance of the struggle for liberty in America to the larger world.
JF: Why do we need to read Washington’s Revolution?
JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?
JF: What is your next project?
RM: I’m not sure, though writing a book about Mark Twain may be it. I’m lucky to be in the university that houses the largest collection of his writings in the world. In the last few years, I’ve read many of his unpublished manuscripts and almost all of his letters.
There is also the possibility that I will remain in the colonial period of American history and write about either New England Puritanism or the Revolution.