The best books on the what caused the American Revolution

John Gilbert McCurdy Author Of Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution
By John Gilbert McCurdy

Who am I?

I am a historian of the American Revolution. I am interested in the war that created the United States, why it happened, and its lasting effects on the world today. The British government kept meticulous records of the lead-up to American independence and I have scoured these for new and interesting stories that historians have missed. I teach history at Eastern Michigan University, and I am currently completing a book on buggery in the British army that will be out in 2024.


I wrote...

Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution

By John Gilbert McCurdy,

Book cover of Quarters: The Accommodation of the British Army and the Coming of the American Revolution

What is my book about?

My book explores the social and political history of quartering—housing soldiers—and why this caused the Revolution. Central to this is the Quartering Act, a law passed by Parliament in 1765. Many think this law forced soldiers into colonial homes, but the opposite was true. 

I argue that Americans rejected quartering because their ideas about the meanings of place changed. Although housing soldiers was commonplace in colonial America, the arrival of British armies led many to imagine their houses as sites of domestic privacy. Yet when troops filled barracks in nearly every American city, the colonists rethought whether armed men belonged in their cities. Following the Boston Massacre, Americans took up their own defense and refused to quarter any British troops.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution

By Edmund S. Morgan, Helen M. Morgan,

Book cover of The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution

Why this book?

This book, first published seventy years ago, offers an in-depth look at the Parliamentary act that did more than any other to enrage the American colonists: the Stamp Act of 1765. Edmund and Helen Morgan explore the law in depth from what it was (a tax on all paper used in the colonies) and how it was received in America (poorly). The Stamp Act Crisis provides a rich portrayal of the riots that rocked American cities throughout the summer and fall of 1765. I really like the short biographies of the most important people involved, such as Massachusetts governor Francis Bernard, customs collector John Robinson, and pamphleteer Daniel Dulany.

The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution

By Edmund S. Morgan, Helen M. Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Stamp Act Crisis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Impressive! . . . The authors have given us a searching account of the crisis and provided some memorable portraits of officials in America impaled on the dilemma of having to enforce a measure which they themselves opposed.'-- New York Times 'A brilliant contribution to the colonial field. Combining great industry, astute scholarship, and a vivid style, the authors have sought 'to recreate two years of American history.' They have succeeded admirably.'-- William and Mary Quarterly 'Required reading for anyone interested in those eventful years preceding the American Revolution.'-- Political Science Quarterly The Stamp Act, the first direct tax on…


The Townshend Moment: The Making of Empire and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century

By Patrick Griffin,

Book cover of The Townshend Moment: The Making of Empire and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century

Why this book?

Revolutionary historians are familiar with the Townshend Acts, import duties approved by Parliament in 1767 that pushed the Americans closer toward independence. Patrick Griffin explores the man for who the taxes were named—Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend—but also his brother George who served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1767 to 1772. By comparing and contrasting these two brothers who ran the British Empire for a brief moment, Griffin invites us to consider the American Revolution within its imperial context. I found the parallels between America where independence efforts succeeded and Ireland where they failed particularly thought-provoking. 

The Townshend Moment: The Making of Empire and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century

By Patrick Griffin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Townshend Moment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The captivating story of two British brothers whose attempts to reform an empire helped to incite rebellion and revolution in America and insurgency and reform in Ireland

Patrick Griffin chronicles the attempts of brothers Charles and George Townshend to control the forces of history in the heady days after Britain's mythic victory over France in the mid-eighteenth century, and the historic and unintended consequences of their efforts. As British chancellor of the exchequer in 1767, Charles Townshend instituted fiscal policy that served as a catalyst for American rebellion against the Crown, while his brother George's actions at the same moment…


The Boston Massacre: A Family History

By Serena Zabin,

Book cover of The Boston Massacre: A Family History

Why this book?

On March 5, 1770, British soldiers stationed in Boston killed five colonists, outraging the continent. and pushing Americans toward war. Serena Zabin offers a fresh perspective on the Boston Massacre, focusing on the people involved in the incident and their families. This book takes us on a tour of eighteenth-century Boston, detailing where soldiers lived among the colonists, and how they became part of the civic family through friendships, marriage, and shared interests. I especially like how Zabin looks at the women involved in this story. We meet Jane Chambers who accompanied her redcoat husband to America, as well as colonist Jane Crothers who witnessed the fateful event.

The Boston Massacre: A Family History

By Serena Zabin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boston Massacre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Historical accuracy and human understanding require coming down from the high ground and seeing people in all their complexity. Serena Zabin’s rich and highly enjoyable book does just that.”—Kathleen DuVal, Wall Street Journal

A dramatic, untold “people’s history” of the storied event that helped trigger the American Revolution.

The story of the Boston Massacre—when on a late winter evening in 1770, British soldiers shot five local men to death—is familiar to generations. But from the very beginning, many accounts have obscured a fascinating truth: the Massacre arose from conflicts that were as personal as they were political.

Professor Serena Zabin…


Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America

By Benjamin L. Carp,

Book cover of Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America

Why this book?

Also key to the coming of the Revolution was the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, when colonists tossed thousands of pounds of tea into the harbor. Benjamin Carp looks at the Tea Act of 1773, which lowered the duty on tea as a means of convincing Americans to agree to taxation without representation. He also traces the affairs of the East India Company in Asia and asks how its priorities affected America. Carp also investigates the protests against the Tea Act (of which the party in Boston was but one), asking how colonial resistance affected American politics. The defiance of the Patriots detailed here is not just a refutation of British imperial rule, but of a corrupt placemen and political inequality. 

Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America

By Benjamin L. Carp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Defiance of the Patriots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An evocative and enthralling account of a defining event in American history

This thrilling book tells the full story of the an iconic episode in American history, the Boston Tea Party-exploding myths, exploring the unique city life of eighteenth-century Boston, and setting this audacious prelude to the American Revolution in a global context for the first time. Bringing vividly to life the diverse array of people and places that the Tea Party brought together-from Chinese tea-pickers to English businessmen, Native American tribes, sugar plantation slaves, and Boston's ladies of leisure-Benjamin L. Carp illuminates how a determined group of New Englanders…


American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

By Pauline Maier,

Book cover of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

Why this book?

All of the Parliamentary laws and massacres ultimately led to the day in July 1776 when the delegates at the Second Continental Congress declared their independence from King George III. Pauline Maier looks at the founding document of the United States in-depth, explaining how colonial grievances against the Quartering Act and other laws became the poetry we still know. I really like how Maier traces the ideas contained in the Declaration and how Thomas Jefferson’s words were altered in congress, in particular, removing passages that condemned the king for slavery. Ultimately, she leaves us thinking about the impact of the Declaration on American history from abolitionism to women’s suffrage to twenty-century wars for independence.

American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

By Pauline Maier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Scripture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pauline Maier shows us the Declaration as both the defining statement of our national identity and the moral standard by which we live as a nation. It is truly "American Scripture," and Maier tells us how it came to be -- from the Declaration's birth in the hard and tortuous struggle by which Americans arrived at Independence to the ways in which, in the nineteenth century, the document itself became sanctified.

Maier describes the transformation of the Second Continental Congress into a national government, unlike anything that preceded or followed it, and with more authority than the colonists would ever…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the American Revolution, Boston, and Colonial America?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the American Revolution, Boston, and Colonial America.

The American Revolution Explore 112 books about the American Revolution
Boston Explore 131 books about Boston
Colonial America Explore 41 books about Colonial America

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Johnny Tremain, Founding Mothers, and A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier if you like this list.