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Inventing Ethan Allen Paperback – June 3, 2014
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“Inventing Ethan Allen describes in detail the shifting historical images of Vermont’s most famous revolutionary hero. The story Duffy and Muller tell is both complex and entertaining, involving Allen’s own self-promotion, several biographers, the founders of the Vermont Historical Society, state politicians, professional as well as amateur historians, sculptors, and entrepreneurs fond of exploiting Ethan’s fame. The book also gives straightforward summaries of what we know and don’t know about Allen’s life. A must-read for anyone interested in how Vermonters relate to their past.” (Jere Daniell, professor of history emeritus, Dartmouth College)
“Inventing Ethan Allen is a remarkable achievement: an incisive, scholarly, and often amusing account of both the ‘real’ and the ‘invented’ Ethan Allen. Muller and Duffy, relying on research of extraordinary depth and breadth, have written a probing and witty inquiry into the never-ending struggle between the unsettling facts of the past and the enduring power of myth.” (Dona Brown, professor of history, University of Vermont)
“Duffy and Muller help readers better understand Vermont’s most famous citizen and how contemporary society impacts historians, their writing and the need for critical historical inquiry." (Journal of the American Revolution)
“Inventing Ethan Allen is a watershed book of tremendous importance. Two of Vermont’s most respected scholars have joined forces to bring Ethan Allen down to size. I believe Vermonters have always suspected that the ‘real’ Ethan Allen put his pants on one leg at a time. But we needed to be told―and to be told in a way that can be believed. Vermont is indebted to Duffy and Muller. Still, the ‘real’ Ethan Allen stands in my mind as one hell of a man: Were I to confront him on the question of his courage, I would be sure to have a grin on my face.” (Frank Bryan, professor emeritus, University of Vermont)
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The authors show that the legend of Ethan Allen was created in the 19th Century, when leading citizens decided they wanted a hero of the Revolution. Seth Warner, Governor Chittenden, Moses Robinson, Ethan's brother Ira and others were too colorless. None had written a best selling book, like Allen's account of his captivity (in which he commisioned himself a colonel). His waffling on statehood, and his ambiguous dealings with the British, were overlooked or lied about. In our time a biography written by Willard Sterne Randall bought the entire legend, despite the lack of reliable sources, and accompanied it with page after page of simple factual errors. This book patiently shows how little of the legend is true, and why it was invented. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of early Vermont, the first republic admitted to the Union.