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Whose American Revolution Was It?

Whose American Revolution Was It?: Historians Interpret the Founding

Alfred F. Young
Gregory H. Nobles
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 293
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  • Book Info
    Whose American Revolution Was It?
    Book Description:

    The meaning of the American Revolution has always been a much-contested question, and asking it is particularly important today: the standard, easily digested narrative puts the Founding Fathers at the head of a unified movement, failing to acknowledge the deep divisions in Revolutionary-era society and the many different historical interpretations that have followed. Whose American Revolution Was It? speaks both to the ways diverse groups of Americans who lived through the Revolution might have answered that question and to the different ways historians through the decades have interpreted the Revolution for our own time. As the only volume to offer an accessible and sweeping discussion of the period's historiography and its historians, Whose American Revolution Was It? is an essential reference for anyone studying early American history. The first section, by Alfred F. Young, begins in 1925 with historian J. Franklin Jameson and takes the reader through the successive schools of interpretation up to the 1990s. The second section, by Gregory H. Nobles, focuses primarily on the ways present-day historians have expanded our understanding of the broader social history of the Revolution, bringing onto the stage farmers and artisans, who made up the majority of white men, as well as African Americans, Native Americans, and women of all social classes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8912-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Gregory H. Nobles and Alfred F. Young

    Whose American Revolution Was It?speaks to the different ways Americans at the time of the Revolution might have answered this question and to the different ways historians in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have interpreted the Revolution for our own time. On one level, the answer to the question in either era might seem quite obvious: Whose American Revolution was it? It was the Americans’, of course, a successful War for Independence from Great Britain. Americans made—and won—their revolution. But no sooner has one said the word “Americans” than other questions immediately come up: Which Americans? Who...

  4. American Historians Confront “The Transforming Hand of Revolution”
    (pp. 13-134)
    Alfred F. Young

    In August 1926 Charles A. Beard published an enthusiastic review of John Franklin Jameson’s bookThe American Revolution Considered as a Social Movementin theNew Republic. Jameson sent him a warm letter of appreciation and clarification, and Beard responded with even more lavish praise.¹ The exchange is a convenient point from which to launch an inquiry into the achievement of Jameson in the context of the scholarship of his day, the remarkable durability of his little book of four lectures, and the way American historians have dealt with the Jameson thesis and the larger, still unresolved issue of what...

  5. Historians Extend the Reach of the American Revolution
    (pp. 135-256)
    Gregory H. Nobles

    Could the study of the American Revolution ever be over? It may have seemed that way to some historians attending the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians—held, quite appropriately, in Boston—on a late Friday afternoon in March 2004. After sitting in a hotel meeting room for over an hour and listening to several presentations surveying “The State of the Field: The American Revolution,” a few people expressed their persistent suspicion that the field had become rather sparse in recent days, that the history of the American Revolution had already been essentially written, that all the good...

  6. Afterword
    (pp. 257-264)
    Gregory H. Nobles

    If J. Franklin Jameson were alive again today, he might well want to revise his metaphor for the American Revolution. It may still be fine to say, as he did in 1925, that the “stream of revolution, once started, could not be confined within narrow banks, but spread abroad upon the land,” but even that image hardly captures the thrust and power of recent research. Instead of an overflowing stream, the description now needs to portray the rapidity and turbulence of the revolutionary waters. Indeed, modern scholarship would suggest that there is not a single stream but a confluence of...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 265-266)
  8. Index
    (pp. 267-286)
  9. About the Authors
    (pp. 287-287)