New York City, the strategic center of the Revolutionary War, was the most important place in North America in 1776. That summer, an unruly rebel army under George Washington repeatedly threatened to burn the city rather than let the British take it. Shortly after the Crown’s forces took New York City, much of it mysteriously burned to the ground. This is the first book to fully explore the Great Fire of 1776 and why its origins remained a mystery even after the British investigated it in 1776 and 1783. Uncovering stories of espionage, terror, and radicalism, Benjamin L. Carp paints a vivid picture of the chaos, passions, and unresolved tragedies that define a historical moment we usually associate with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Benjamin L. Carp is the Daniel M. Lyons Professor of American History at Brooklyn College and teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His latest book is The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution. He also wrote Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (Yale, 2010), which won the Cox Book Prize from the Society of the Cincinnati in 2013, and Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution (Oxford, 2007). He has written about nationalism, firefighters, wet nurses, Benjamin Franklin, and Quaker merchants in Charleston, for scholarly journals like Early American Studies, Civil War History, New York History, the William and Mary Quarterly, and popular publications such as BBC History, Colonial Williamsburg, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. He received his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and he previously taught at the University of Edinburgh and Tufts University.