Founding Martyr by Christian Di Spigna

Founding Martyr

Christian Di Spigna

This new biography of Dr. Joseph Warren, an architect of the colonial rebellion, is a loving work of historical excavation, the product of two decades of research and scores of newly unearthed primary-source documents.

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A rich and illuminating biography of America’s forgotten Founding Father, the patriot physician and major general who fomented rebellion and died heroically at the battle of Bunker Hill on the brink of revolution

Little has been known of one of the most important figures in early American history, Dr. Joseph Warren, an architect of the colonial rebellion, and a man who might have led the country as Washington or Jefferson did had he not been martyred at Bunker Hill in 1775. Warren was involved in almost every major insurrectionary act in the Boston area for a decade, from the Stamp Act protests to the Boston Massacre to the Boston Tea Party, and his incendiary writings included the famous Suffolk Resolves, which helped unite the colonies against Britain and inspired the Declaration of Independence. Yet after his death, his life and legend faded, leaving his contemporaries to rise to fame in his place and obscuring his essential role in bringing America to independence.

Christian Di Spigna’s definitive new biography of Warren is a loving work of historical excavation, the product of two decades of research and scores of newly unearthed primary-source documents that have given us this forgotten Founding Father anew. Following Warren from his farming childhood and years at Harvard through his professional success and political radicalization to his role in sparking the rebellion, Di Spigna’s thoughtful, judicious retelling not only restores Warren to his rightful place in the pantheon of Revolutionary greats, it deepens our understanding of the nation’s dramatic beginnings.


Advance Galley Reviews

I love history nonfiction for this exact reason -finding out more about people you don't often hear about. I enjoyed reading this one far more than I thought I would. Dr Joseph Warren wasn't someone that I have read about previously so all of this was new to me. It's definitely an interesting look into someone largely overlooked. 4.5/5 stars.

As someone who grew up in MA, I've always loved American Revolutionary history so it was really interesting reading the life of a key player that I'd never really heard that much about before. And I love reading about places I know in the present, and trying to imagine how they were in the past. (For example, Roxbury which was once a farming town is now a densely populated urban city) I was only able to read about half the book before my advance copy expired, but I would look forward to reading the rest!

My husband’s home county is named for him, but who was Doctor Joseph Warren? His untimely death at the Battle of Bunker Hill (and a year before the Declaration of Independence) means his place in history has been largely overlooked. His name is seldom mentioned in the same breath as Adams and Washington, but is it possible that events such as the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride might not have happened if not for Warren? Speaker and Colonial Williamsburg volunteer, Christian di Spigna, has set about writing a complete biography about the life and times of the medic and agitator. Di Spigna is not the first to write a so-called definitive biography of Warren, but his is the first I’ve read on the man. He starts with a look at Warren’s childhood in Roxbury, Mass., and gives an idea of what the doctor’s childhood was probably like. Roxbury then is different to how it is now. At the time, Roxbury was separated from Boston by a narrow isthmus, and that little fact is actually fairly important. The Boston Neck, as it was known, was the main way in and out of Boston by land. It was via this route that Revere and William Dawes traveled when Warren sent them out on that ride. Warren’s death has ensured that, when he is considered, he is looked at in a mostly positive light. But in my reading of Founding Martyr I don’t believe he comes across as a stellar individual. It’s true that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, so maybe my English background is subconsciously telling me something. Di Spigna includes examples of Warren’s incendiary writing in which, albeit anonymously, Warren appeared to encourage mob activities such as the infamous Tea Party. The mob violence reminded me of today’s Antifa movement, although that doesn’t automatically put either group on the right side of history. Personally, I deplore any form of wanton destruction (which seems to go against the Founding Fathers’ notions of property rights), and the author shows that both patriots and loyalists committed such acts. So who was Warren? Was he someone who tried to straddle the fence, with both patriots and loyalists for patients, only to eventually fall onto the side of Revolution? Did he keep his patriot clients in order to spy on them? Or did he simply not care what others thought and did his own thing? Through this book, I came to see him as an impetuous creature who had to be involved in everything and go wherever the action was. It makes no sense to me why, with his many civilian and organizational roles, he had to go rushing off to the physical fight. It also appears he wasn’t accustomed to thinking long-term. For example, he handed his motherless offspring into the care of his fiancée, who adored them, but left no written statement regarding their situation should he pass. This left the lady with no legal recourse when his family claimed the children. Warren supposedly made a comment about dying up to his knees “in blood,” but was this a man who truly thought about his death or merely wanted to sound noble? Almost everything I know now about Joseph Warren comes from 313 pages of Founding Martyr. Overall, it’s a fascinating read about a complex man. From what I can tell, Di Spigna does a thorough job of examination, quoting other biographers in his discourse, and finishing with a discussion of Warren’s legacy. There are over 70 pages of notes, some of which are more than mere references to other sources. It’s a concise, mostly easy to read, introduction to a man who is possibly more responsible for the Revolutionary War than is commonly thought. I’m not sure I would call him a hero, but then heroes are mostly mere mortals who do uncommon things in uncommon times. And Warren was definitely a mortal living in uncommon times. One final thought: I find it richly ironic that this book is published by Crown, when a crown was worn by the man Joseph Warren thought to remove from the oversight of colonial affairs (George III) I received a download of Founding Martyr from First to Read, a Penguin Random House program. My words and opinions are my own. Product Details: Publisher: Crown (an imprint of Penguin Random House) Publication Date: 14 August 2018 Information https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/243537/founding-martyr-by-christian-di-spigna/9780553419320/

Joseph Warren was a prominent doctor who lived in the Boston area in the 1700’s. His thoughts and writings greatly influenced the men who became leaders of the American Revolution. Because of the influence Dr. Warren exercised, he became one of the British rulers’ foremost enemies and one whom they watched closely. Warren was the man who actually sent Paul Revere on his famous “ride”. When war broke out, Warren could have chosen not to fight on the front lines but he insisted on taking part in the fighting. He died tragically at the battle of Bunker Hill. Joseph Warren’s contribution to American independence was significant. His writings rallied others to the cause of freedom from British rule. Perhaps because he died early on, his deeds were forgotten as other patriots’ actions became known. Had Warren not died, he would most likely have had a prominent role in establishing the new, independent United States. Author Christian Di Spigna’s meticulous research using primary source documents has brought to life the contributions made by this intelligent, passionate, patriot. This well written biography is a must read for anyone interested in American history! Thank you to First to Read and author Christian Di Spigna for giving me the opportunity to read this outstanding biography!

History is written by the winners, it is said, but it's the winners who survive that live to tell their tale. FOUNDING MARTYR is the biography of one who died early in a conflict, a work that brings to light the many contributions of Dr. Joseph Warren. By rights, he was one of America's founding fathers, and Crhistian De Spigna does a fine job of illuminating the life and times of a man who has been largely forgotten. Dr. Warren had a comfortable life and a booming medical practice, yet he did not hesitate to join the resistance to British interference in colonial self-government. To read about a man's dedication to what he thought was right and just makes for fascinating reading. Imagine yourself, with young children to provide for, but you are so incensed about unfair taxation that you organize resistance, even at risk of imprisonment or death. The man was an intriguing character, and the narrative lays out a timeline of events that show how one thing led to another until the first shots of the American Revolutionary War were fired. Readers will come away with a strong sense of what made a gentleman in those trying times, and what was expected of those who dared to step forward and lead. Well worth reading for history buffs or anyone enjoying the liberty bought at a high price.

This book is a well researched and interesting story about a key player (but relatively unknown) in the Revolutionary War. I found it a bit dull at times but overall, it was informative and I’m glad I read it.

An interesting perspective and an interesting read. I thought this would be a good one to check out. I appreciated all of the details. Thanks for the opportunity.

As a huge fan of everything that revolves around the Revolutionary War, I was excited to read this book about Joseph Warren. Before reading this book, I knew almost nothing about him. After reading this book, its hard for to believe that he has been forgotten and more hasn't been written on him. Di Spigna does a marvelous job chronicling Warren's life and ultimately his tragic death. While the book goes in depth about Warren's life, you also get a whole picture of the events leading up to the revolution and some of the lesser known characters that played large roles. Warren is a fascinating character and I was inspired to see that he was such an ardent patriot. His ability to put politics aside and run his medical practice is a lesson that needs to be highlighted today. The fact that he willing to treat anyone, regardless of their beliefs, is something that is missing in our culture today. There were immense feelings on both sides during this time, yet Warren was able to look through the lens of humanity and not let that cloud his judgement. Although later on in his life, it seemed like he let the fire burning in his belly for independence take over and he was willing to great lengths to fight for it. His desire for independence and willingness to give up everything ultimately cost him his life, but his courage should not be lost. This was a story that needed to be told and a story that needs to be heard!

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I found it to be quite in-depth and well-researched. It discusses many of the issues facing the colonials of the day. One point brought out several times by the author is the fortune in Warren’s choice of career which enabled him to reach across the hierarchy of society and to establish reputation and influence. This ultimately set the stage for his place in history. As enlightened as I am by his story and his position of leadership, it is important to also remember that those few at the top have many below them contributing to and creating their legacy. This book was a great review of not only this man, but of many others who inspired, participated in, and created the country we have today. We’ve come a long way from these founding times and should never forget those who’ve gone before to allow us the freedoms we enjoy today. An easily read biography of an influential founding colonist.

I appreciated the focus on the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence. The background information, the setting of the scene and the times made the times more understandable. I enjoyed the setting without long comparisons to our times, just the facts. Do not pass up the footnotes. They contain explanations and background that enhanced my understanding. Because I read them after the book, they also provided a quick overview. Thanks to First to Read for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

The subject was interesting, a little known but major player before and at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, because there is not much left of Dr Warren’s own papers, letters or journals, the book seems to contain a lot of speculation and filler material. I think this might have made for an excellent long article in a scholarly journal rather than this puff piece of a book.

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an uncorrected proof via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program. All opinions are my own. Not sponsored. I enjoyed this book! I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading biographies and non-fiction wartime, as well those interested in learning what life was like during the 18th century. More specifically, those who would like to know about events surrounding the American Revolutionary War/American War of Independence and the life of Dr. Joseph Warren. The author, Christian Di Spigna, did a wonderful job presenting the story of Dr. Joseph Warren who held multiple titles and roles as a well-respected physician and key political activist during the early days of the American Revolution. It's presented in a well-constructed, well-organized, semi-chronological timeline that preserves several historical dates of interest. This was balanced with excerpts from Dr. Warren’s personal life, excellent scene descriptions, and insight into the fascinating social norms of the time, which made for a pleasurable read that wasn't overwritten or boring. As someone who is familiar with Dr. Joseph Warren, I appreciated the level of detail that was contained in this historical account. The beginning chapter did contain a few long-winded bits, but the sentences made for case in point and weren’t overly distracting. The author was able to cleverly depict interesting differences in the knowledge and culture of the time to a more common worldview of today without interjecting loads of personal bias/opinions or unnecessary embellishment to the storyline. I enjoyed the careful placement of 18th century prose by use of direct quotes along with the occasional summarization. I also really liked the inclusion of words that were used for certain items at the time instead of substituting them with overly descriptive imagery and explanations. Though I had to reach for my dictionary a couple times, I found it refreshing to learn the names of objects that are not common in today's daily life and language. As far as the storyline is concerned, people familiar and unfamiliar with it will find it intriguing and the writing compelling. It would make a great addition to anyone's historical or medical biography literary collection.

I found this book extremely interesting and very well-researched. A story of a man who was a part of the fight for Liberty in our country's history.

 


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