It’s not easy writing an unfavorable review, especially when the author is no longer able to defend himself. My review of Thomas K. McCraw’s The Founders and Finance: How Hamilton, Gallatin, and Other Immigrants Forged a New Economy is up at the IHR’s “Reviews in History”, and it’s not a happy one, made all the more regrettable since the author passed away in November. I do take some comfort from Gordon Wood’s review of the same at The New Republic. Wood, while reviewing for a general audience, also finds McCraw’s book to be problematic and notes its organizational problems.
Money quote from my review:
So what should the final judgement on this book be? Reading it as an academic specialist, the book is disappointing in that its weak thesis on the correlation of immigrants to the office of Treasury Secretary is not fully explored, nor evidence for causative influence on public policy demonstrated. On the other hand, the book has much to offer the general reader, with its clear explanation of financial instruments and its lively prose. If the book were issued by a trade press, it would be a clear success and stand above many other works of popular literature on the American founding and early republic. As it is, its publication by an academic press raises questions as to its intended audience and what statement it is actually trying to make.