The King's Three Faces: The Rise and Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776

UNC Press Books
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Reinterpreting the first century of American history, Brendan McConville argues that colonial society developed a political culture marked by strong attachment to Great Britain's monarchs. This intense allegiance continued almost until the moment of independence, an event defined by an emotional break with the king. By reading American history forward from the seventeenth century rather than backward from the Revolution, McConville shows that political conflicts long assumed to foreshadow the events of 1776 were in fact fought out by factions who invoked competing visions of the king and appropriated royal rites rather than used abstract republican rights or pro-democratic proclamations. The American Revolution, McConville contends, emerged out of the fissure caused by the unstable mix of affective attachments to the king and a weak imperial government. Sure to provoke debate, The King's Three Faces offers a powerful counterthesis to dominant American historiography.

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About the author

Brendan McConville is professor of history at Boston University and author of These Daring Disturbers of the Public Peace: The Struggle for Property and Power in Early New Jersey.

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Additional Information

Publisher
UNC Press Books
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Published on
Dec 1, 2012
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Pages
344
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ISBN
9780807838860
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Social History
History / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)
History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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After the War of 1812 the United States remained a cultural and economic satellite of the world’s most powerful empire. Though political independence had been won, John Bull intruded upon virtually every aspect of public life, from politics to economic development to literature to the performing arts. Many Americans resented their subordinate role in the transatlantic equation and, as earnest republicans, felt compelled to sever the ties that still connected the two nations. At the same time, the pull of Britain’s centripetal orbit remained strong, so that Americans also harbored an unseemly, almost desperate need for validation from the nation that had given rise to their republic.

The tensions inherent in this paradoxical relationship are the focus of Unfinished Revolution. Conflicted and complex, American attitudes toward Great Britain provided a framework through which citizens of the republic developed a clearer sense of their national identity. Moreover, an examination of the transatlantic relationship from an American perspective suggests that the United States may have had more in common with traditional developing nations than we have generally recognized. Writing from the vantage point of America’s unrivaled global dominance, historians have tended to see in the young nation the superpower it would become. Haynes here argues that, for all its vaunted claims of distinctiveness and the soaring rhetoric of "manifest destiny," the young republic exhibited a set of anxieties not uncommon among nation-states that have emerged from long periods of colonial rule.

Of all the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson stood out as the most controversial and confounding. Loved and hated, revered and reviled, during his lifetime he served as a lightning rod for dispute. Few major figures in American history provoked such a polarization of public opinion. One supporter described him as the possessor of "an enlightened mind and superior wisdom; the adorer of our God; the patriot of his country; and the friend and benefactor of the whole human race." Martha Washington, however, considered Jefferson "one of the most detestable of mankind"--and she was not alone.

While Jefferson’s supporters organized festivals in his honor where they praised him in speeches and songs, his detractors portrayed him as a dilettante and demagogue, double-faced and dangerously radical, an atheist and "Anti-Christ" hostile to Christianity. Characterizing his beliefs as un-American, they tarred him with the extremism of the French Revolution. Yet his allies cheered his contributions to the American Revolution, unmasking him as the now formerly anonymous author of the words that had helped to define America in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, meanwhile, anxiously monitored the development of his image. As president he even clipped expressions of praise and scorn from newspapers, pasting them in his personal scrapbooks.

In this fascinating new book, historian Robert M. S. McDonald explores how Jefferson, a man with a manner so mild some described it as meek, emerged as such a divisive figure. Bridging the gap between high politics and popular opinion, Confounding Father exposes how Jefferson’s bifurcated image took shape both as a product of his own creation and in response to factors beyond his control. McDonald tells a gripping, sometimes poignant story of disagreements over issues and ideology as well as contested conceptions of the rules of politics. In the first fifty years of independence, Americans’ views of Jefferson revealed much about their conflicting views of the purpose and promise of America.

Jeffersonian America

The Marketplace of Revolution offers a boldly innovative interpretation of the mobilization of ordinary Americans on the eve of independence. Breen explores how colonists who came from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds managed to overcome difference and create a common cause capable of galvanizing resistance. In a richly interdisciplinary narrative that weaves insights into a changing material culture with analysis of popular political protests, Breen shows how virtual strangers managed to communicate a sense of trust that effectively united men and women long before they had established a nation of their own. The Marketplace of Revolution argues that the colonists' shared experience as consumers in a new imperial economy afforded them the cultural resources that they needed to develop a radical strategy of political protest--the consumer boycott. Never before had a mass political movement organized itself around disruption of the marketplace. As Breen demonstrates, often through anecdotes about obscure Americans, communal rituals of shared sacrifice provided an effective means to educate and energize a dispersed populace. The boycott movement--the signature of American resistance--invited colonists traditionally excluded from formal political processes to voice their opinions about liberty and rights within a revolutionary marketplace, an open, raucous public forum that defined itself around subscription lists passed door-to-door, voluntary associations, street protests, destruction of imported British goods, and incendiary newspaper exchanges. Within these exchanges was born a new form of politics in which ordinary man and women--precisely the people most often overlooked in traditional accounts of revolution--experienced an exhilarating surge of empowerment. Breen recreates an "empire of goods" that transformed everyday life during the mid-eighteenth century. Imported manufactured items flooded into the homes of colonists from New Hampshire to Georgia. The Marketplace of Revolution explains how at a moment of political crisis Americans gave political meaning to the pursuit of happiness and learned how to make goods speak to power.
From the author of 1491—the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas—a deeply engaging new history of the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs.

More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description—all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City—where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted—the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today’s fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.
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