Friday, May 9, 2014

G310 Book Review of The Education of George Washington

Title of the book: The Education of George Washington; How a Forgotten book shaped the character of a hero

Author: Austin Washington

Publisher: Regnery History

Publishing Date: 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62157-205-3


George Washington—a man of honor, bravery and leadership. He is known as America’s first President, a great general, and a humble gentleman, but how did he become this man of stature?

Washington’s Code answers this question with a new discovery about his past and the surprising book that shaped him. Who better to unearth them than George Washington’s great-nephew, Austin Washington?

Most Washington fans have heard of �The Rules of Civility” and learned that this guided our first President. But that’s not the book that truly made George Washington who he was. In Washington’s Code, Austin Washington reveals the secret that he discovered about Washington’s past that explains his true model for conduct, honor, and leadership—an example that we could all use.

With what particular subject or period does the book deal?

Basically the author, who happens to be distantly related to George Washington, tries to convince the reader that a book titled "A Panegyrick to the Memory of His Grace Frederick, Late Duke of Schonberg", played a huge role in forming George Washington and whom he became in the end. The subject itself takes place in 1700s prior to American Revolution, although there are some battles covered during American Revolution.

How thorough is the treatment?

In order to convince the reader, the author even went ahead and printed the book that has inspired George Washington a great deal. I would say that the treatment towards the education of George Washington as well as life in Great Britain and in America as it relates to education is very thorough and education.

What were the sources used?

The author used both primary and secondary sources, and he didn't use the INTERNET but instead used the printed materials. Some of hte sources that were used included letters, papers and biographies.

Is the account given in broad outline or in detail?

The account of the book is given in detail rather than broad outline because the author does take time to let the audience know of the world that George Washington was familiar with.

Is the style that of reportorial writing, or is there an effort at interpretive writing?

I think there's an effort at interpretive writing but I don't think it works well because the author is trying to appeal to what seems to be everyone, but at the same time doesn't seem to appeal to anyone.

What is the point of view or thesis of the author?

"This book will reveal the key-a genuine secret, hidden in plain sight for two centuries, that explains how my great-uncle became a great man. This secret might help you do what he did, at least a bit. Be good and great, that is." (2)

Is the treatment superficial or profound?

I would say that the treatment is profound because there are a lot of details and a lot of world building of America in 1700s as well as what's important and what's not. The author even goes into some legends trying to disprove them.

For what group is the book intended (textbook, popular, scholarly, etc.)?

I think the author was trying to go for the popular group, or the average everyday person, but from reading it, I would say that the book belongs either in a textbook or scholarly class.

What part does biographical writing play in the book?

Austin Washington is the great-nephew of George Washington. He earned his masters and did post-graduate research focusing on colonial American history, and is a writer, musician, entrepreneur and global traveler. He returns to an old Virginia family home whenever he can. Austin's first book takes a common criticism of his academic writing - "You're not writing a newspaper editorial, you know!" - and turns it into a virtue, taking a subject dry and dusty in other's hands and giving it life. He has lived abroad much of his life, most recently in Russia, and visits friends from Sicily to Turkey to Bangladesh and beyond. His earliest influences as a writer were Saki, Salinger, and St. Exupery, although in more recent years he has got beyond the S's. As for historians, he is partial to the iconoclast Gibbon, who wrote history to change the future.

His latest book is the nonfiction/history book, The Education of George Washington.

For more information, see author Austin Washington discussing his book in a video on his web site at and also on You Tube at:

The author is distantly related to George Washington through one of George Washington's brothers. He tries to appeal to modern generation but I think its not successful.

Is social history or political history emphasized?

I'd say social history is emphasized and there is very little mention of political history.

Are dates used extensively, and if so, are they used intelligently?

While the dates are used, I don't think they're used extensively as they should have been.

Is the book a revision? How does it compare with earlier editions?

The book isn't a revision

Are maps, illustrations, charts, etc. used and how are these to be evaluated?

Unfortunately there aren't any maps or charts or anything like that

Personal Reading:

What I liked about the book is that I learned new information about George Washington. However, the reason for such a low rating is this: at one point the author talked about the cherry tree myth, and I didn't appreciate that he used the words "non-Americans" which sounded kind of contemptuous and angry. (Perhaps he might have mentioned, for those that aren't familiar with the story instead of non-Americans.) And the book itself read like a textbook rather than something fun and entertaining. Here's another thing: towards the very end, the book that made George Washington great is published. But the author neglects to mention how to read the book, and I doubt many people knew that back then, the f could also mean s.

Purchase your copy:


Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

The Education of George Washington Tour Page:

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)



    I appreciate the time you took to write such a careful review. On the whole, coming from your particular perspective, it seems you were being fair.

    First, I understand it if you thought it was “too much like a textbook.” The point, I think, was to have better arguments, facts, and research, than almost any popular history book while making it vastly more readable. Dr. Theodore Crackel, Emeritus Editor of the George Washington Papers Project at Mount Vernon, told me the other day he was reading it for a second time. Someone else told me the other day he had once read John Marshal’s notorious (for being so long) seven volume biography of George Washington, and yet even after that he got something worthwhile - and new - out of reading The Education of George Washington.

    Also, it was a pleasure, not a pain, he said. So, in this sense - it appears the book is successful in its goal.

    You say it’s not “fun” enough for you. I accept that. It upsets me, though, that that comment might discourage people for whom it might be perfectly suited from reading it.

Here’s the thing:

    It’s not trying to compete with a Disney film. “Fun” I think of, as what three year olds have when they eat a lollipop. I like lollipops. However, The Education of George Washington is not a lollipop. Instead it is, to quote someone else, a book that combines “the wit of Wilde with the depth of Gibbon.” It’s better than a lollipop, for some people, at least.

    But it’s not a lollipop, you’re right.

    Unfortunately, you cannot find Oscar Wilde amusing without at least some background. It’s not for everyone. The Education of George Washington was intended for educated people, although you are right to an extent - not necessarily history hobbyists. You half-way got the goal. A broadER audience, but, as Bill Cosby once said, if you try to please everyone, you please no one.

    I tried - and apparently succeeded - in pleasing people who would not normally automatically go for a history book. Those with high standards for scholarship who also want to be amused, but not necessarily by biography. Maybe they just want to be inspired. Some people have laughed out loud, and yet still got the point of the book.

    I’ve been told it’s unique, that way.

    Also, another reviewer who has an interest in the history of our country called it “the best book ever written about the Father of our Country”, and then wrote to tell me he thought his review didn’t go far enough (I wasn’t sure how it could have gone further!)


    I think your last two criticisms, to the extent they were co-equal components with the first in giving it a low star rating, seem bizarre, to say the least. For one, the font for S was different back then due to technical limitations - it was still an S. I think it would insult most readers’ intelligence to explain something like that. But maybe you're right, who knows? Anyway, though, that would be an editor who would think of something like that, not an author. No one at my publisher thought little enough of their readership to imagine that.

    Even so, you list that as one of three reasons to give the book a low star rating. Like finding a snow flake fluttering on Snow White’s eyelid, and saying that made her ugly.

    A bit disproportionate, perhaps?




    Far more important - you have the first new information about George Washington in over two hundred years, which is a landmark discovery, along with almost half a decade of research and scholarship, compressed into three hundred and fifty pages designed to entertain as they enlighten, and inspire as they inform. You then list the final of three reasons you gave the book a low star rating as one compound word - "non-Americans" - in a sentence that implied that non-Americans would probably never heard of the cherry tree story. Even if this weren’t self-evidently true, I’ve know people at Oxford - not the most uneducated dunces on earth - who were not even sure George Washington was a president. It is certainly empirically the case that non-Americans often know nothing about George Washington.

    For reasons unfathomable to me you take umbrage with a truism.

    But, okay...

    Then, you take this as one of three reasons to give the book a low star rating. This would seem to take disproportionality to mammoth extremes. It would be as if I told your new acquaintance not to be your friend because you forgot a comma in a sentence you wrote last Tuesday before your morning cup of coffee. Your entire life, your soul, your spirit, your passions, your joy, your education, your hopes, your dreams - no, she forgot a comma. F*** her.

    Would you think that was fair? Not only to you, but to your potential friend?

    A mountain is closer to the size of a molehill than that self-evident assumption (that non-Americans know very little about George Washington), expressed in one compound word, can be said to be close to being a good reason to discourage people from reading an entire book, which is, to repeat the opinion of a reviewer who has a particular interest in this area, “the best book about the Father of Our Country ever written.” (continued)

    (continued from previous comment)

    And also the only truly original one in over two hundred years.

    It’s true The Education of George Washington is not for everyone, and I can even see a three star rating because it was too scholarly for you - not entirely fair, but not entirely unfair, either - but two stars for the reasons you list seems like killing a mosquito with the destructive power all the thermonuclear devices on earth.

    A bit of overkill. Perhaps you'll be kind enough to consider things in their totality, and revise it upwards.

    Thank you.


  3. Thanks for commenting by the way, but if I might explain a bit further: I wasn't born in America, but came over here at a very young age. I'm also a history major, although my focus goes to medieval Europe/minority history. I am also located in Texas, and many of the people I know aren't into or are familiar/passionate about history. When I read the compound word, non-Americans, I did feel insulted because it seemed as if you might have singled these people out, and like you yourself mentioned, many people you've met don't have a good grasp on history.

    Also, when you consider that anything comes from the past is taken to be modernized, (In Shakespeare's plays words have different meanings than in today,) and that I was surrounded by people who were vastly different than I, I doubt mentioning that fact will be seen as an insult to intelligence.


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