100 books like Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson

By Darren Staloff,

Here are 100 books that Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson fans have personally recommended if you like Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

For all the drama of the Philadelphia Convention, it would have been an empty exercise had the American people not ratified the charter that it produced. Pauline Maier’s Ratification tells the surprisingly dramatic story of the state-by-state ratification process, one that encompasses not only the famous figures of the period but also everyday citizens. Maier’s book on the Declaration of Independence, American Scripture, is also excellent.

By Pauline Maier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ratification as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


Book cover of Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

Gordon Wood is often described as the dean of historians of the American founding, and all of his books are eminently worth reading. I was lucky enough, as a postdoc at Brown University, to sit in on the last course that he taught on the American Revolution before his retirement. Of the many volumes that Wood has written, I picked this dual biography of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson not only because it’s a delightful read, but also because it’s the book that I was reading when the idea for my book struck me.

By Gordon S. Wood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017

From the great historian of the American Revolution, New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer-winning Gordon Wood, comes a majestic dual biography of two of America's most enduringly fascinating figures, whose partnership helped birth a nation, and whose subsequent falling out did much to fix its course.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy's champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the…


Book cover of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Dennis C. Rasmussen Author Of Fears of a Setting Sun: The Disillusionment of America's Founders

From my list on American founders from a political theorist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political theorist at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I spent the first fifteen years or so of my career working on the Scottish and French Enlightenments (Adam Smith, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire), but in recent years I’ve been drawn more and more to the American founding. In addition to Fears of a Setting Sun, I’m also the author of The Constitution’s Penman: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of America’s Basic Charter, which explores the constitutional vision of the immensely colorful individual who—unbeknownst to most Americans—wrote the US Constitution.

Dennis' book list on American founders from a political theorist

Dennis C. Rasmussen Why did Dennis love this book?

Joseph Ellis is probably the most popular historian of the founding period, and for good reason: he has few rivals as a storyteller. As with Wood, Ellis has written at least a dozen books that could be included in my list, but Founding Brothers is probably his most well-known, as well as my personal favorite. I assign small bits of it in my American political thought course as a supplement to the primary texts, and students often comment on how much they enjoy reading it.

By Joseph J. Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this landmark work of history, the National Book Award—winning author of American Sphinx explores how a group of greatly gifted but deeply flawed individuals–Hamilton, Burr, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams, and Madison–confronted the overwhelming challenges before them to set the course for our nation.

The United States was more a fragile hope than a reality in 1790. During the decade that followed, the Founding Fathers–re-examined here as Founding Brothers–combined the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with the content of the Constitution to create the practical workings of our government. Through an analysis of six fascinating episodes–Hamilton and Burr’s deadly…


Book cover of Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Signing Their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the United States Constitution

From my list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Why am I passionate about this?

Joseph D’Agnese grew up in the Bicentennial-fueled excitement of the 1970s, and spent 1976 fake-playing a fife and sporting a tricorn hat in various school events. Besides teaching him how to get in and out of Revolutionary-period knickers, this experience awakened in him a love for the Founding Era of American history. He has since authored three history titles with his wife, The New York Times bestselling author Denise Kiernan. 

Joseph's book list on the creation of the U.S. Constitution

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

What’s fascinating about the making of the Constitution is how every point the framers debated in 1787 rang down through the ensuing years.

Should a state’s power be determined by its land size and resources—or the size of its population? Should we abolish slavery, or pass the buck to another generation? Who should get the right to vote—rich men or all men? Deciding these big three questions consumed much of the squabbles, and led to compromise. State’s rights, for example, led to creation of the bicameral structure of Congress.

The slavery question ultimately led to war in the 19th century, and the stinging legacy of the infamous Three-fifths Compromise. Their decisions on voting rights later resulted in amendments granting African Americans and women the right of suffrage. It’s almost as if you can glimpse America’s future in those 1787 debates.

The late Richard Beeman, then a professor at the University…

By Richard Beeman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Plain, Honest Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In May 1787, in an atmosphere of crisis, delegates met in Philadelphia to design a radically new form of government. Distinguished historian Richard Beeman captures as never before the dynamic of the debate and the characters of the men who labored that historic summer. Virtually all of the issues in dispute—the extent of presidential power, the nature of federalism, and, most explosive of all, the role of slavery—have continued to provoke conflict throughout our nation's history. This unprecedented book takes readers behind the scenes to show how the world's most enduring constitution was forged through conflict, compromise, and fragile consensus.…


Book cover of The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses

Ai Hisano Author Of Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat

From my list on a new understanding of your sensory experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of the senses. When I first traveled to the United States, I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the smell and sound of the streets entirely different from my hometown in Japan. Since then, every time I go abroad, I enjoy various sensory experiences in each country. The first thing I always notice is the smell of the airport which is different from country to country. We all have the senses, but we sense things differently—and these differences are cultural. I wondered if they are also historical. That was the beginning of my inquiry into how our sensory experience has been constructed and changed over time.

Ai's book list on a new understanding of your sensory experience

Ai Hisano Why did Ai love this book?

The Enlightenment is often associated with intellectual changes. But the book sheds a new light on this “Age of Reason” by showing how emotions and feelings played a crucial role in this intellectually and sensorially dynamic period. Purnell tells this change by providing many interesting, and funny, episodes. My favorite, among others, is the seventeenth-century vogue for perfumes made of the excretions of the civet cat or the musk deer, and it was only in the mid-eighteenth century that floral scents became popular. This shift had to do with people’s ideas about health, cleanliness, and naturalness that changed over time. You will learn how and why people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought about the senses, how they experience their sensory world, and how our sensory experience came about over the course of a few hundred years.

By Carolyn Purnell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blindfolding children from birth. Playing a piano made of live cats. Using tobacco to cure drowning. Wearing "flea"-coloured clothes. These actions seem odd to us but in the eighteenth century they made sense.

As Carolyn Purnell persuasively shows, while our bodies may not change dramatically, the way we think about the senses and put them to use has been rather different over the ages. Journeying through the past three hundred years, Purnell explores how people used their senses in ways that might shock now. Using culinary history, fashion, medicine, music and many other aspects of Enlightenment life, she demonstrates that,…


Book cover of Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Author Of Adam Smith's System: A Re-Interpretation Inspired by Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric, Game Theory, and Conjectural History

From my list on the Adam and smith of modern economics.

Why are we passionate about this?

 AO: I have been intrigued by the Adam and smith (a play on Adam Smith’s name due to K. Boulding) of social sciences ever since, as a graduate student, I was given the privilege to teach a history-of-thought course. I found a lot of wisdom in Smith’s works and continue to find it with every new read. BW: I first met Adam Smith when I was studying for my master’s degree in economics almost twenty years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed rereading him, always finding new sources of fascination and insights. For me, Smith's work is endlessly rich and remains astonishingly topical, three centuries after his birth. 

Andreas and Benoit's book list on the Adam and smith of modern economics

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Why did Andreas and Benoit love this book?

Phillipson’s book is, for us, the best intellectual biography about Smith.

It provides a balanced overall account of Smith’s economics and wider thought and traces their origins and evolution back to the places where Smith lived. It is a very fine read indeed. Quite possibly it is the most insightful book yet on Smith’s life and work.

It is a must-read for Smith scholars. It is also an important corrigendum to the many accounts that describe Smith as an absent-minded professor, somewhat detached from the world. Phillipson argues convincingly that Smith, while he may have had Asperger’s, was a man of the world, a very competent administrator in academic and other matters, and a much sought-after policy advisor at the highest level.

By Nicholas Phillipson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Adam Smith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Adam Smith is celebrated all over the world as the author of The Wealth of Nations and the founder of modern economics. A few of his ideas - such as the 'Invisible Hand' of the market - have become icons of the modern world. Yet Smith saw himself primarily as a philosopher rather than an economist, and would never have predicted that the ideas for which he is now best known were his most important. This book, by one of the leading scholars of the Scottish Enlightenment, shows the extent to which The Wealth of Nations and Smith's other great…


Book cover of Dark Side of the Light: Slavery and the French Enlightenment

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew Curran Author Of Who's Black and Why? A Forgotten Chapter in the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

From my list on race and the enlightenment.

Why are we passionate about this?

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is an award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, and has authored or co-authored twenty-two books; he's also the host of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. Andrew Curran is a writer and the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities at Wesleyan University. His writing on the Enlightenment and race has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, and more. Curran is also the author of the award-winning Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely and The Anatomy of Blackness.

Henry's book list on race and the enlightenment

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew Curran Why did Henry love this book?

The philosopher and polemicist Sala-Molins fired a bow shot across Enlightenment scholarship with this book in 1992. In an era when most French scholars of the Enlightenment continued to study (and valorize) the figureheads of the era, Sala-Molins attributed the supposed silence of the philosophes regarding the horrors of chattel slavery to deep-seated racism. More polemically he called out individual thinkers such as Voltaire and Montesquieu, the latter of whom Sala-Molins memorably called a négrier or slave trader. Peu importe or little does it matter that the book itself is rife with historical inaccuracies. The Dark Side of the Light was and is a powerful cri de coeur directed at scholars of the eighteenth century, a plea for them to look more carefully at the legacies – good and bad – that we now associate with the Enlightenment. 

By Louis Sala-Molins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau and Montesquieu are best known for their humanist theories and liberating influence on Western civilization. But as renowned French intellectual Louis Sala-Molins shows, Enlightenment discourses and scholars were also complicit in the Atlantic slave trade, becoming instruments of oppression and inequality.

Translated into English for the first time, Dark Side of the Light scrutinizes Condorcet's Reflections on Negro Slavery and the works of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Diderot side by side with the Code Noir (the royal document that codified the rules of French Caribbean slavery) in order to uncover attempts to uphold the humanist project…


Book cover of Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century

Ludmilla Jordanova Author Of The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice

From my list on visual culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian and writer who strives to combine the history of science and medicine, the study of visual culture, and cultural history in my work. Although I hated being dragged round art galleries and museums as a child, something must have stuck, laying the foundations for my interest in using images and artefacts to understand both the past and the present. Since the early 1990s I’ve been writing about portraits, how they work, and why they are important—I remain gripped by the compelling ways they speak to identity.  It was a privilege to serve as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in London between 2001 and 2009.

Ludmilla's book list on visual culture

Ludmilla Jordanova Why did Ludmilla love this book?

London’s British Museum, with its massive and diverse collections, is world famous and the story of its foundation and early years in the eighteenth century sheds light on the histories of collecting, knowledge, and exploration. More than twenty essays were assembled to celebrate the opening of the Enlightenment Gallery in the King’s Library after years of research and refurbishment. These essays draw readers into the people, the objects, and the ideas that shaped this important and influential institution. The book is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous photographs of paintings and statues, coins, fossils, china, and much more—a wonderful way to grasp the museum’s stupendous holdings and also to understand better the controversies it has engendered.

By Kim Sloan (editor), Andrew Burnett (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary companion to the British Museum's 250th anniversary exhibition.
Opened in 1753 as the world's first public museum, the British Museum epitomized the Age of Enlightenment's dream of a rational universe. Indeed, in many ways the museum was the age's most potent instrument: the incarnation of a world that could be parsed, classified, and comprehended through the physical observation of objects, all in the name of reason, progress, and civic improvement.


In this lavishly illustrated volume, published to coincide with a new permanent exhibit, the museum's centrality to the Enlightenment enterprise is explored through the stunning breadth and variety…


Book cover of Light in Germany: Scenes from an Unknown Enlightenment

Ritchie Robertson Author Of The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790

From my list on the Enlightenment.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2021 I retired as Schwarz-Taylor Professor of German at Oxford. For many years I had been interested not only in German literature but in European literature and culture more broadly, particularly in the eighteenth century. Oxford is a centre of Enlightenment research, being the site of the Voltaire Foundation, where a team of scholars has just finished editing the complete works of Voltaire. When in 2013 I was asked to write a book on the Enlightenment, I realized that I had ideal resources to hand – though I also benefited from a year’s leave spent at Göttingen, the best place in Germany to study the eighteenth century. 

Ritchie's book list on the Enlightenment

Ritchie Robertson Why did Ritchie love this book?

For centuries German historians underplayed the Enlightenment, treating it as an unwelcome foreign import. Writing with the zeal almost of a missionary, Reed shows that Germany participated fully in the Enlightenment, and that the great luminaries of the German classical age, Goethe and Schiller, continued its endeavours in individual and sometimes idiosyncratic ways. He also offers a unique introduction to the philosophy of Kant, showing how it developed in the specific milieu of Prussia under the Enlightened despot Frederick the Great, and drawing attention also to his pioneering work as a theoretical scientist: Kant was the first person to suggest that the nebulae visible beyond the Milky Way might be separate galaxies.

By T.J. Reed,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Light in Germany as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Germany's political and cultural past, from ancient times through World War II, has dimmed the legacy of its Enlightenment, which these days is far outshone by those of France and Scotland. In this book, T. J. Reed clears the dust away from eighteenth-century Germany, bringing the likes of Kant, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Gotthold Lessing into a coherent and focused beam that shines within European intellectual history and reasserts the important role of Germany's Enlightenment. Reed looks closely at the arguments, achievements, conflicts, and controversies of these major thinkers and how their development of a lucid and active liberal thinking…


Book cover of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Joseph P. Forgas Author Of The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy

From my list on why populism threatens liberal democratic societies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an experimental social psychologist and Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. I grew up in Hungary, and after an adventurous escape I ended up in Sydney. I received my DPhil and DSc degrees from the University of Oxford, and I spent various periods working at Oxford, Stanford, Heidelberg, and Giessen. For my work I received the Order of Australia, as well as the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, and a Rockefeller Fellowship. As somebody who experienced totalitarian communism firsthand, I am very interested in the reasons for the recent spread of totalitarian, tribal ideologies, potentially undermining Western liberalism, undoubtedly the most successful civilization in human history.

Joseph's book list on why populism threatens liberal democratic societies

Joseph P. Forgas Why did Joseph love this book?

This is an incredibly interesting, well-written, and informative book that lays out the case for the amazing success of liberal democracies based on the Enlightenment values of liberty, universal humanism, and individualism.

I consider this book an essential reading for everyone who has been brainwashed by the current pessimistic and catastrophizing ideologies attacking this most successful of all human civilization.

Pinker is an outstanding writer, and the empirical evidence he marshals for the success and values of the Enlightenment in promoting human flourishing is utterly persuasive.

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Enlightenment Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR

"My new favorite book of all time." --Bill Gates

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science. By the author of the new book, Rationality.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third…


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