A Powerful Mind

A Powerful Mind

The Self-Education of George Washington

Adrienne M. Harrison

328 pages

Hardcover

October 2015

978-1-61234-725-7

$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

His formal schooling abruptly cut off at age eleven, George Washington saw his boyhood dream of joining the British army evaporate and recognized that even his aspiration to rise in colonial Virginian agricultural society would be difficult. Throughout his life he faced challenges for which he lacked the academic foundations shared by his more highly educated contemporaries. Yet Washington’s legacy is clearly not one of failure.

Breaking new ground in Washington scholarship and American revolutionary history, Adrienne M. Harrison investigates the first president’s dedicated process of self-directed learning through reading, a facet of his character and leadership long neglected by historians and biographers. In A Powerful Mind, Harrison shows that Washington rose to meet these trials through a committed campaign of highly focused reading, educating himself on exactly what he needed to do and how best to do it. In contrast to other famous figures of the revolution—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin—Washington did not relish learning for its own sake, viewing self-education instead as a tool for shaping himself into the person he wanted to be. His two highest-profile and highest-risk endeavors—commander in chief of the Continental Army and president of the fledgling United States—are a testament to the success of his strategy.

Author Bio

Adrienne M. Harrison is a former assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy. Her work has been published in Oxford Bibliographies.

Praise

"Of great of value to anyone interested in Washington."—A. A. Nofi, Strategy Page

“Adrienne Harrison’s important, engaging, and eye-opening book demolishes the conventional wisdom about George Washington. Whoever thinks he was first in war and first in peace but last among his peers as a man of the Enlightenment needs to think again. Harrison proves that Washington, a bibliophile, commanded a world of ideas.”—Robert M. S. McDonald, associate professor of history at the United States Military Academy and editor of Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés

“Harrison argues persuasively that Washington read extensively. . . . [She] has effectively penetrated Washington’s mind and found it filled with books that he both owned and read.”—Theodore J. Crackel, editor in chief emeritus of the Papers of George Washington and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
1. Pursuing Useful Knowledge
2. Provincial Reading
3. Revolutionary Reading
4. Presidential Reading
5. A Legacy Library
6. A Place for Secluded Study
Conclusion
Suggestions for Further Reading
Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

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