The Martyr and the Traitor: Nathan Hale, Moses Dunbar, and the American Revolution


Product Details

$27.95  $25.99
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.3 X 1.2 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Virginia DeJohn Anderson is Professor of History at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is the author of New England's Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America, and American Journey: A History of the United States.


"A highly readable and accessible double biography...The Martyr and the Traitor is part of a current trend of books on the American Revolution that casts the American Revolution as a civil war. This book has great potential in the undergraduate classroom: It is hard to think of a more vivid example of contingency. Through these two evocative stories readers come away with an understanding of how global politics reverberated along local lines." -- Serena Zabin, Journal of the Early Republic

"Well written and thought provoking ... The Martyr and the Traitor is a most welcome reminder of the complex personal struggles entailed in the building of the American nation. Virginia DeJohn Anderson's telling of the stories of Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar dispels any facile slogans of patriotic fervor." -- Robert S. McPherson, Michigan War Studies Review

"Groundbreaking and relevant....Anderson's work is a microhistory of two individuals with a highly engaging biographical narrative that shows how social networks, circumstances, and localized concerns influenced loyalties and decisions....Highly engaging, eloquent, and convincing, the narrative at once further complicates and yet clarifies how the Revolution played out on a localized scale....Anderson presents sophisticated scholarship in an inviting manner and really opens up the world of Hale and Dunbar to the reader along with the crucial reminder that American independence was not a foregone conclusion and how easily things could have been different....A page turner."--Kelly Mielke, Journal of the American Revolution

"Anderson's well-researched and well-written dual biography deserves public acclaim....The Martyr and the Traitor would be an excellent addition to any early American history class."--Timothy C. Hemmis, H-War

"By examining the short lives and dramatic executions of two passionate young men on opposing sides, Virginia DeJohn Anderson illuminates the painful political decisions demanded by a complex revolution and the swirling fortunes of war. With careful research and in deft prose, Anderson brilliantly recovers the human drama and life-and-death stakes of the civil war that we call the American Revolution." - Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804

"The Martyr and The Traitor exemplifies Virginia Anderson's scholarly finesse and literary skill. The opening is simply stunning. It is not just the rich narration that gives the book power, but the elegance of its argument. Anderson reminds us that while it is easy to kill a man, it is impossible to control the lessons people might draw from such an act." - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author of A Midwife's Tale

"A compelling story of revolutionary America unfolds in these pages, one that captures the lives of young men and women who came of age during these years of crisis by charting the fates of a famous rebel spy and a committed loyalist." - Christine Leigh Heyrman, author of American Apostles: When Evangelicals Entered the World of Islam

"In this engrossing dual biography of two young Connecticut men executed for treason by opposing sides in the revolutionary war, one the famous Nathan Hale and the other the obscure Moses Dunbar, Virginia Anderson brilliantly introduces modern readers to issues of loyalty and honor in the late eighteenth century. Which of her subjects, one might ask, was the martyr and which the traitor? Her narrative casts important new light on unfamiliar political uncertainties in revolutionary New England." - Mary Beth Norton, author of In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

"Both Nathan Hale and Moses Dunbar were Connecticut Yankees. Both were hanged as spies. Following them to the gallows, Virginia Anderson gives us a powerful tale about the American Revolution's bitter, tragic conflicts." - Edward Countryman, Southern Methodist University

"No less than others, the American Revolution was not just a matter of declarations and high-mindedness, but a bitter internal conflict that tore apart individuals, families and their communities. Anderson's fine work exposes to view these often hidden realities." - Publishers Weekly

"The author asks readers to question their education concerning the Revolutionary War and its black-and-white rendering of patriots as good and loyalists as evil. In the process, Anderson successfully documents not only the injustices done to colonists by the British, but also the mistreatment of loyalists by the Whigs, a subject that is often overlooked... This book will be of great importance to readers interested in the legacy and memory of American conflicts." - Library Journal

"This is a tale of two men, two causes and two tragedies: two Connecticut farm boys who yearned for something better, two young men caught up in the fearsome tumult of revolution, two steadfast soldiers who refused to repent before they hanged. One is well-known: Nathan Hale, the American spy who regretted that he had but one life to lose for his country. The other is Moses Dunbar, a lowly Anglican Loyalist whom most of his countrymen wanted to forget... a moving coming-of-age (and end-of-life) story as well as a military history and a spy thriller." --The Wall Street Journal

"This dual biography of a famous patriot and a virtually unknown loyalist demonstrates the perplexing choices many Americans faced during the Revolution...Its real value (there is little available information on the men themselves) is the author's meticulous untangling of the social, educational, cultural, economic, and religious threads that eventually led people with similar backgrounds to choose opposite sides in the conflict. This engaging, lucid micro-study reminds readers that when history is written by the winners, much gets left out....Recommended." -- Choice