British professor de Bolla (cultural studies, Kings Coll., Cambridge Univ.; Art Matters) looks at the origins of theAmerican holiday, the development of the symbols surrounding it (e.g., Betsy Ross, the Liberty Bell, Uncle Sam), and how the holiday has evolved and been publicly celebrated over the years. The book shows general readers (there is nothing here for informed readers or scholars) that many of the legends of the Fourth do not hold up to inquiry. He likens the veneration of objects and stories associated with the holiday to veneration of religious relics: the truth is often blurred or ignored in deference to the significance of the message. For example, he shows that the actual date has little meaning in reality, with members of the Second Continental Congress simply agreeing to have the Declaration of Independence printed on July 4. They then moved on to other business. The famous engrossed vellum version in the National Archives was signed on July 19th. De Bolla examines other mysteries as well, such as whether Jefferson plagiarized part of the Declaration. Although much of the material has been covered before, this short volume serves as "one-stop shopping" for the subject and will appeal to new history buffs and general readers in public libraries.
Robert Flatley Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information