Review of Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager

tj

I picked up this book hard copy – a rarity for me, in the airport coming home from vacation and had it completed by the time we landed.  Granted, I’m a fast reader, but the message here is that this is not a deep book.  It is one, however, that is a good geopolitical read.

My printed copy clearly had some issues, with two inserts covering up errors or putting in text that was missing in the final copy.  There were a good number of pictures and maps, which were useful.  This was a foreign war against a terrorist state where religion played a part.  Hmm, the parallels to today seem pretty obvious. 

The authors do a fair job of giving you the context – both overseas and in the US at the time.  It was good to know, but what makes this book, as with most history, is the characters.  This had some outstanding heroes and some villains that seemed to have come from central casting.  The war itself was oddly balanced – the fledgling US against a well-established albeit minor state.  It is a strange balance but one that works.

As a military historian, I wanted a little more. I didn’t get the feeling of being there, though I am sure from the footnotes, that there was a wealth of material that could have been brought to bear in this regard. There were plenty of opportunities to provide readers with a wealth of detail that simply were overlooked.  The authors clearly wanted this to be an overview of America’s first foreign conflict…and therein lies the rub.  

If you are looking for the definitive book on the war with the Tripoli pirates, this is not it.  There is not a wealth of new material here on the subject.  In fact, I didn’t learn anything new and that left me wanting.  Again, I’m a history reader and writer – so I always want new data. 

If you only have passing knowledge of these conflict, I recommend this book.  Otherwise this book doesn’t break any new ground – but it is well written.  Personally, I wanted more.  As such, I give it three out of five stars. 

 

 

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