David McCullough

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1776 Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on David McCullough's 1776. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of David McCullough

David McCullough grew up in Pennsylvania, and later studied English literature at Yale University, where he learned from some of the greatest American writers of the era. He worked for Sports Illustrated and later the United States Information Agency. He published his first book, The Johnstown Flood, in 1968, to great success. Since 1968, McCullough has written dozens of acclaimed history books, including Truman (1993) and John Adams (2001), both of which won the Pulitzer Prize, and 1776 (2005). He’s been married to Rosalee Barnes since the age of 17.
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Historical Context of 1776

The primary historical event of 1776 is, of course, the Revolutionary War. Following the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 to 1763, the British Empire began to tighten controls over its American colonies, instituting heavy taxes (most infamously the Stamp Act of 1765). The British crown also increased its military presence in America, often forcing American families to provide food and lodging for British soldiers in their own homes, and at their own expense. By the late 1760s, there was broad support among Americans for an expulsion of British troops from America and a return to what had been the status quo prior to the French and Indian War. By the 1770s, this movement had erupted into a full-on war of rebellion. In 1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, officially announcing their intentions to secede from the British Empire. The Revolutionary War ended with an American victory in 1783, due in large part to financial and military aid from France.

Other Books Related to 1776

David McCullough wrote 1776 as a companion to his previous, much longer biography, John Adams (2001), about the Founding Father and second president of the United States. In John Adams, McCullough writes about the Revolutionary War from the perspective of the idealists and politicians who organized it, whereas 1776 is more focused on the soldiers and generals who fought in battle. Readers interested in fiction based on the Revolutionary War might try the novels of Howard Fast, including April Morning (1961), Citizen Tom Paine (1943) and The Hessian (1972). In these books, Fast writes about many different facets of the Revolutionary War that McCullough addresses in 1776. Another notable Revolutionary War novel is Johnny Tremain (1945) by Esther Forbes, set in Boston in the early days of the war.
Key Facts about 1776
  • Full Title: 1776: America and Britain at War
  • When Written: 2002-2004
  • Where Written: Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and New York City
  • When Published: May 24, 2005
  • Genre: Nonfiction, American history
  • Setting: North America, 1776
  • Climax: The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, 1776
  • Antagonist: George III, the British Empire
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for 1776

Awards galore. David McCullough is the winner of some of the most prestigious awards you can win as a writer: he’s the recipient of a National Book Award, two Pulitzer Prizes, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The voice of God. In addition to his talents as a writer, David McCullough is a highly sought-after narrator of films and documentaries. He’s the narrator of the Academy Award-nominated film Seabiscuit (2003), among many others.