Friday, December 21, 2012

Peter Shaw: The Character of John Adams

John Adams, 1783 (Age 48) By: John Singleton Copley
In his introduction of The Character of John Adams Peter Shaw states "I have tried to introduce Adams to readers outside the profession of American history without sacrificing the standards of historical scholarship". Shaw continues to say that he brings a more literary style to his writing about Adams which for the reader means that it will keep them interested and leave out some minutia that make our eyes heavy.

This biography does not have very many in depth reviews on the net. From what I have read Shaw seems to draw directly from writings of Adams. If you remember, this was my first tip for picking a biography worth reading. Primary sources are vital in accurate biographies. However, some biographies that do a great job with historiography are not well written and may focus on a wide variety of details that we never wanted to know about. This leads me to my second tip for choosing a biography: define your purpose.

 For this blog I have decided to skip biographies with names like "The Politics of John Adams" and "Abraham Lincoln's Hat". While both of these fictional biographies probably contain great and interesting information, I don't need them for a blog that focuses on their spiritual lives. When you pickup a biography read the introduction and the back to make sure that the content will be useful to your desires. Not all biographies will satisfy the history buff in you. Decide what things about history grab your attention and try to find a biography focusing on that.

I chose this biography by Shaw because it takes a wide angle approach and progresses in chronological order from birth to death much like Flexner's bio of Washington. I also opened to a random page and it seems very well written. Remember that I am avoiding biographies that are written specifically about the spiritual life of these men because those biographies are biased in all the places I need more objectivity. All biographies are biased, the choice we have as readers is what biases we want to avoid and what biases we are OK with.