Sunday, October 08, 2006

I love history

I'm in the middle of two books right now.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow is a really well written, detailed history of Hamilton's life, starting with his childhood in the West Indies and moving on through his immigration to the United States and his career with George Washington, first as his private secretary during the Revolutionary War and then as the first Treasurer. Apparently Hamilton was a doting father and husband, but he also had an illicit affair that he was later blackmailed with. He ended up dying in a duel (who knew people engaged in duels in this country?) and his wife outlived him by fifty years. Despite the affair, which became public, she adored him until the day she died.

It's a really dense biography but it's so interesting, it almost reads like a novel. I love this period in history. Chernow presents tons of information without bombarding you with his own opinion. He also gives mini biographies within the context of history of the people with whom Hamilton worked closely. In this aspect, I find that I'm learning more about George Washington in this book than I did in reading a biography solely about the President. It's also interesting that Hamilton is one of the only founding fathers who never attained the presidency. His moral failings aside, he played a pivotal role in shaping the country at its inception. And that's an understatement. His character is fascinating.

The other book I'm reading is called Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. It's about slave-made quilts and the underground railroad. We visited the National Cryptologic Museum and they have a big quilt in one corner (a modern sampler, not an actual slave quilt, as those are extremely rare) with excerpts from this book. Slaves used different quilt blocks as codes and hung them out as if airing them to send messages to those who were preparing to flee. I'm finding the book itself to be somewhat redundant, but the history they cite is interesting. The authors did a lot of research tying the quilts and symbols they used to African culture and secret societies.


Amanda said...

National Cryptologic Museum? That sound so interesting. It's in DC, I assume? I love biographies, but I haddn't heard of this one.

Caitlin said...

I want to read that, it sounds fascinating.

Bluebell said...

The museum is actually on Fort Meade-one of the only places civilians are allowed to go unaccompanied! If you look at a map you'll see that Ft. Meade is smack in between Baltimore and DC, about half an hour from each city.