People's History, Founding Myths, and the American Revolution
Ray Raphael - People's Historian


homepage bio speaking contact


founding myths
hardcopy - ebook
buy from Teaching for Change

Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past
Tenth Anniversary Edition, Revised and Expanded

The New Press, June, 2014

“A distinguished historian revisits the American legends he effectively debunked 10 years ago and discovers that they die hard… A persuasive argument in favor of evidence-based history, even if it means surrendering some of our cherished fabrications.” ­ Kirkus review of the revised edition
full review

“Raphael relays so much forgotten or never-known history and argues so well why it, not the legends, should be remembered that virtually any American will profit from reading this lively, intelligent book.” — Booklist

“All students of American history will find Raphael’s correction of the historical record instructive and enjoyable.” — Publishers Weekly


"Raphael sees a paradox, arguing that 'The image of a perfect America in a mythic past hides our Revolutionary roots, and this we do not need.' In reconsidering American history, Raphael contends that Americans will be able to discover the stories of real people who can be the source of a true patriotism. Raphael’s goal is to peal away the layers of fiction that serve only to obscure our own past, and that prevent the actions and sacrifices of real Americans from defining American history. … Founding Myths shows that looking back and reconsidering history is a prerequisite of the very possibility of moving forward."    — History News Network

"The author exposes numerous myths before, during, and after the Revolution revolving around Paul Revere's ride, Valley Forge, Patrick Henry's 'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death' speech, the Battle of Yorktown, and several others. In each case, Raphael outlines the myth, reveals what really happened, and, most importantly, argues why we must move past historical nonsense so that a truer, more democratic national record can emerge. Academic historians have long known these truths. Raphael deserves praise for his efforts to have that knowledge trickle down to the rest of us." – School Library Journal

"Ray Raphael's engaging and eye-opening book about the myths concerning the American Revolution doesn't merely debunk historical fallacies. Using the best modern historical writing and his own research, the author also explains why and to what purpose these myths were created and then offers well-argued alternative explanations."  — Sacramento Bee

“Ray Raphael is at his iconoclastic best in this book, demolishing historical nonsense, suggesting a new patriotism based on truth rather than myth.” — Howard Zinn

Click here to read the Introduction


Table of contents:

Introduction: Inventing the Past

Heroes and Heroines

1. Paul Revere’s Ride

2. Molly Pitcher

3. The Man Who Made a Revolution: Sam Adams

David and Goliath

4. The Shot Heard Round the World: Lexington and Concord

5. The Winter at Valley Forge

Wise Men

6. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence

7. Founding Fathers: The Greatest Generation

Doing Battle

8. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

9. “Do Not Fire ‘till You See the Whites of their Eyes”

Good v. Evil

10. Patriotic Slaves

11. Brutal British

Happy Endings

12. The Final Battle at Yorktown

13. March of the American People

Conclusion: Romancing the Revolution, or Why We Tell Tall Tales

works in progress
online articles
online interviews
teaching tools
teaching tools
take a quiz
top of page