The American Revolution: A History

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“An elegant synthesis done by the leading scholar in the field, which nicely integrates the work on the American Revolution over the last three decades but never loses contact with the older, classic questions that we have been arguing about for over two hundred years.”—Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers

A magnificent account of the revolution in arms and consciousness that gave birth to the American republic.

When Abraham Lincoln sought to define the significance of the United States, he naturally looked back to the American Revolution. He knew that the Revolution not only had legally created the United States, but also had produced all of the great hopes and values of the American people. Our noblest ideals and aspirations-our commitments to freedom, constitutionalism, the well-being of ordinary people, and equality-came out of the Revolutionary era. Lincoln saw as well that the Revolution had convinced Americans that they were a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty. The Revolution, in short, gave birth to whatever sense of nationhood and national purpose Americans have had.

No doubt the story is a dramatic one: Thirteen insignificant colonies three thousand miles from the centers of Western civilization fought off British rule to become, in fewer than three decades, a huge, sprawling, rambunctious republic of nearly four million citizens. But the history of the American Revolution, like the history of the nation as a whole, ought not to be viewed simply as a story of right and wrong from which moral lessons are to be drawn. It is a complicated and at times ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not blindly celebrated or condemned. How did this great revolution come about? What was its character? What were its consequences? These are the questions this short history seeks to answer. That it succeeds in such a profound and enthralling way is a tribute to Gordon Wood’s mastery of his subject, and of the historian’s craft.
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About the author

Gordon S. Wood received his B.A. from Tufts University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Since 1969 he has been at Brown University, where he is a professor of history. In 1970 his book The Creation of the American Republic 1776—1787 was nominated for the National Book Award and received the Bancroft and John H. Dunning prizes. In 1993 he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Radicalism of the American Revolution. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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4.6
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Additional Information

Publisher
Modern Library
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Published on
Mar 5, 2002
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781588361585
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Revolutionary
History / United States / Revolutionary Period (1775-1800)
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Maintaining that the outbreak of revolution in 1775 was not the result of secret planning by radicals but rather the end product of years of painful evolution, Pauline Maier brilliantly traces the American colonists’ road to independence from 1765 to 1776 and examines the role of popular violence as political allegiances corroded and once-loyal subjects were gradually transformed into revolutionaries.
 
Mrs. Maier presents a view of the American leaders different from that which prevailed a generation ago, when historians saw them as lawless demagogues who, already set upon independence at the outset of the conflict with England, manipulated the public toward their goal through propaganda and mob violence. She shows that none of the men in the forefront of American opposition to British policies favored independence when the colonies blocked England’s efforts to impose a tamp Tax upon them in 1765. Their love of British institutions was undermined gradually and for reasons beyond their opposition to legislation affecting American interest. Developments in England itself, in Ireland, Corsica, and the West Indies also fed American disillusionment with imperial rule, until leading colonists came to believe that just government required casting loose from Britain and monarchy. Indeed, Mrs. Maier demonstrates that participants saw the American Revolution as part of an international struggle between freedom and despotism.
 
Like independence, violence was a last resort. Arguing that colonial leaders, like many present-day “revolutionaries,” quickly learned that popular violence was counterproductive, Mrs. Maier makes it clear that they organized resistance in part to contain disorder. Building association to discipline opposition, they gradually made self-rule founded upon carefully designed “social compacts” a reality. Out of the struggle with Britain emerged not merely separation, but the beginnings of American republican government.
"For those who like their history rich in vivid details, Derek Beck has served up a delicious brew in this book....This may soon become everyone's favorite." —Thomas Fleming, author of Liberty! The American Revolution

A sweeping, provocative new look at the pivotal years leading up to the American Revolution

The Revolutionary War did not begin with the Declaration of Independence, but several years earlier in 1773. In this gripping history, Derek W. Beck reveals the full story of the war before American independence-from both sides.

Spanning the years 1773-1775 and drawing on new material from meticulous research and previously unpublished documents, letters, and diaries, Igniting the American Revolution sweeps readers from the rumblings that led to the Boston Tea Party to the halls of Parliament-where Ben Franklin was almost run out of England for pleading on behalf of the colonies-to that fateful Expedition to Concord which resulted in the shot heard round the world. With exquisite detail and keen insight, Beck brings revolutionary America to life in all its enthusiastic and fiery patriotic fervor, painting a nuanced portrait of the perspectives, ambitions, people, and events on both the British and the American sides that eventually would lead to the convention in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

Captivating, provocative and inspiring, Igniting the American Revolution is the definitive history of these landmark years in our nation's history, whose events irrevocably altered the future not only of the United States and England, but the whole world.

" Integrating compelling personalities with grand strategies, political maneuverings on both sides of the Atlantic, and vividly related incidents, Igniting the American Revolution pulls the reader into a world rending the British Empire asunder." Samuel A. Forman, author of the biography Dr. Joseph Warren

Written from a strikingly fresh perspective, this new account of the Boston Tea Party and the origins of the American Revolution shows how a lethal blend of politics, personalities, and economics led to a war that few people welcomed but nobody could prevent.  


In this powerful but fair-minded narrative, British author Nick Bunker tells the story of the last three years of mutual embitterment that preceded the outbreak of America’s war for independence in 1775. It was a tragedy of errors, in which both sides shared responsibility for a conflict that cost the lives of at least twenty thousand Britons and a still larger number of Americans. The British and the colonists failed to see how swiftly they were drifting toward violence until the process had gone beyond the point of no return.

At the heart of the book lies the Boston Tea Party, an event that arose from fundamental flaws in the way the British managed their affairs. By the early 1770s, Great Britain had become a nation addicted to financial speculation, led by a political elite beset by internal rivalry and increasingly baffled by a changing world. When the East India Company came close to collapse, it patched together a rescue plan whose disastrous side effect was the destruction of the tea.


With lawyers in London calling the Tea Party treason, and with hawks in Parliament crying out for revenge, the British opted for punitive reprisals without foreseeing the resistance they would arouse. For their part, Americans underestimated Britain’s determination not to give way. By the late summer of 1774, when the rebels in New England began to arm themselves, the descent into war had become irreversible. 
           

Drawing on careful study of primary sources from Britain and the United States, An Empire on the Edge sheds new light on the Tea Party’s origins and on the roles of such familiar characters as Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Hutchinson. The book shows how the king’s chief minister, Lord North, found himself driven down the road to bloodshed. At his side was Lord Dartmouth, the colonial secretary, an evangelical Christian renowned for his benevolence. In a story filled with painful ironies, perhaps the saddest was this: that Dartmouth, a man who loved peace, had to write the dispatch that sent the British army out to fight.

Pauline Maier shows us the Declaration as both the defining statement of our national identity and the moral standard by which we live as a nation. It is truly "American Scripture," and Maier tells us how it came to be -- from the Declaration's birth in the hard and tortuous struggle by which Americans arrived at Independence to the ways in which, in the nineteenth century, the document itself became sanctified.

Maier describes the transformation of the Second Continental Congress into a national government, unlike anything that preceded or followed it, and with more authority than the colonists would ever have conceded to the British Parliament; the great difficulty in making the decision for Independence; the influence of Paine's []Common Sense[], which shifted the terms of debate; and the political maneuvers that allowed Congress to make the momentous decision.

In Maier's hands, the Declaration of Independence is brought close to us. She lets us hear the voice of the people as revealed in the other "declarations" of 1776: the local resolutions -- most of which have gone unnoticed over the past two centuries -- that explained, advocated, and justified Independence and undergirded Congress's work. Detective-like, she discloses the origins of key ideas and phrases in the Declaration and unravels the complex story of its drafting and of the group-editing job which angered Thomas Jefferson.

Maier also reveals what happened to the Declaration after the signing and celebration: how it was largely forgotten and then revived to buttress political arguments of the nineteenth century; and, most important, how Abraham Lincoln ensured its persistence as a living force in American society. Finally, she shows how by the very act of venerating the Declaration as we do -- by holding it as sacrosanct, akin to holy writ -- we may actually be betraying its purpose and its power.
The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in the newest volume in the series, one of America's most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812. As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life--in politics, society, economy, and culture. The men who founded the new government had high hopes for the future, but few of their hopes and dreams worked out quite as they expected. They hated political parties but parties nonetheless emerged. Some wanted the United States to become a great fiscal-military state like those of Britain and France; others wanted the country to remain a rural agricultural state very different from the European states. Instead, by 1815 the United States became something neither group anticipated. Many leaders expected American culture to flourish and surpass that of Europe; instead it became popularized and vulgarized. The leaders also hope to see the end of slavery; instead, despite the release of many slaves and the end of slavery in the North, slavery was stronger in 1815 than it had been in 1789. Many wanted to avoid entanglements with Europe, but instead the country became involved in Europe's wars and ended up waging another war with the former mother country. Still, with a new generation emerging by 1815, most Americans were confident and optimistic about the future of their country. Named a New York Times Notable Book, Empire of Liberty offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.
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