I just finished the book Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael. The author argues that we are taught American Revolution history in a top-down format. Great Leaders and Thinkers came up with revolutionary ideas and sold them to the people. By focusing on the Leaders as representative of the people we end up promoting the Leaders as superior to the people resulting in hero worship. He also argue that telling history is complex but we tend to simplify it with devices such as Good vs. Evil, David vs. Goliath, and the need for Happy Endings. This all results in myths entering into the history stories.
Many examples fo these myths are given in the book such as: Paul Revere’s midnight ride, it wasn’t as successful as Longfellow’s poem portrays; how Molly Pitcher is an imaginary figure; and how the Battle of Yorktown did not signal the end of the revolution as we are told. After the author explains what the myth is he provides the richer more complicated true history that we are not told.
Through out the book the author explains how real American Revolution history is from the bottom-up. The People were engaged, aware and wanted revolution. The leaders reflected the will of the people. The leaders should not be looked at as “Founding Fathers”. The American Revolution was a revolution of the people.
I learned many new and interesting things while reading this book.