In 2008, a popular biography of John Adams was made into an HBO miniseries that won the most awards for a television miniseries ever. This was based on the most recent of John Adams' biographies, a book by historian David McCullough. The earliest John Adams' biography was written and published by his grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Sr., who completed the book on top of beginning chapters written decades before by his father, John Quincy Adams, the eldest son of John Adams and the sixth President of the United States. Following this, Charles Francis Adams published the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams over several editions. These records had been maintained by the family for posterity under the wishes of John Adams himself. Charles Francis Adams also published a compilation of hundreds of letters written between John Adams and his wife Abigail from before, during and after the War of Independence and John Adams' presidency. These books were extremely successful and helped validate Charles Francis Adams own political career through his familial connection to one of the wisest men of the Founding Fathers.
In 1933, a historian from France, Gilbert Chinard, who specialized in U.S. History published the first modern biography of John Adams only four years after completing a biography of Thomas Jefferson, Adams' longtime friend and greatest political rival. Chinard titled this biography Honest John Adams. Until the 1950's, much of Adams' family papers were not open to the public. The first biography written after the unveiling of these documents was by the historian Page Smith who won a Bancroft Prize for his work. The next well-known John Adams' biography was The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, a work that focused on psychological aspects of the second President. In terms of scholarly criticism, most point to a biography on John Adams by John E. Ferling from 1993. It was David McCullough's rendition in 2001 that would eventually be picked up by HBO for their successful miniseries starring Paul Giamatti in the leading role.
John Adams short biography is hefty by any standard. As an early Patriot, a lawyer during the Boston Massacre; an original member of the Continental Congress; a leading diplomat abroad; an author of the Massachusetts State Constitution; and, the first Vice President as well as the second President of the United States, John Adams' bio puts him squarely in the middle of all the important political decisions of the early United States. John Adams' autobiography was designed for posterity as he seemed to understand the importance of events with which he was involved and that future generations would seek an understanding of his motives. When he died, his eldest son, John Quincy Adams, was in the second year of his own presidency. John Q Adams biography includes his beginning in the political theater as a boy traveling along with his father on a diplomatic mission to Europe. John Q Adams would be the Secretary of State under the Monroe Administration before winning the election of 1824 to be elected the sixth President and the first son of a former President to hold office himself.