Whose American Revolution Was it?: Historians Interpret the Founding

Whose American Revolution Was it?: Historians Interpret the Founding

by Alfred F. Young, Gregory Nobles


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814797112
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 09/22/2011
Pages: 293
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Alfred F. Young is Alfred Young is Emeritus Professor of History, Northern Illinois University. His numerous books include The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution and Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution (NYU Press).

Gregory H. Nobles is Professor in the School of History, Technology, and Society at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of American Frontiers: Cultural Encounters and Continental Conquest, among other works.

Table of Contents

Introduction Gregory H. Nobels Alfred F. Young 1

American Historians Confront "The Transforming Hand of Revolution" Alfred F. Young 13

Introduction 13

I J. Franklin Jameson 16

1 The Jameson Thesis: The Text 16

2 The Jameson Thesis: The Context 19

3 Jameson's Achievement 19

II Progressives and Counter-Progressives 33

4 The Progressive Historians 33

5 The Counter-Progressives: Part 1 47

6 Against the Grain

7 The Counter-Progressives: Part 2 65

III New Left, New Social History 75

8 The New Left 75

9 The New Social History 89

10 Explorations: New Left, New Social, New Progressive 96

IV Synthesis 101

11 The Transformation of Early American History 101

12 Toward a New Synthesis? 114

Historians Extend the Reach of the American Revolution Gregory H. Nobles 135

Introduction 135

I Refocusing on the Founders 137

1 Twenty-first-Century "Founders Chic" 137

2 The Elite Critique of Social History 141

II Redefining Freedom in the Revolution 144

3 The Contradiction of Slavery 144

4 The Revolution of the Enslaved 146

5 Emancipation's Fate in the Revolutionary Era 152

6 The Founders' Failures on Slavery 156

III Facing the Revolution from Indian Country 172

7 Native American Perspectives on Euro-American Struggles 172

8 Eighteenth-Century American Empires 181

IV Reconsidering Class in the American Revolution 192

9 The Roots and Resurgence of Class Analysis 192

10 The Urban Context of Class 196

11 Class in the Countryside 208

V Writing Women into the Revolution 224

12 Energy and Innovation since 1980 224

13 New Approaches to Elite Women's Lives 230

14 The Historical Recovery of Ordinary Women's Lives 235

15 Women in the Post-Revolutionary Public Sphere 246

Afterword Gregory H. Nobles 257

Acknowledgments 265

Index 267

About the Authors 287

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Gregory Nobles' deft exploration of a new wave of scholarship on the American Revolutionary era extends Alfred Young's earlier historiographical classic. With a master's touch, they have provided the go-to book for all who treasure the American Revolution as the seedtime of American democracy while looking to its multi-faceted dimensions for answers to today's problems and challenges." -Gary Nash,author of The Unknown American Revolution

“A masterful synthesis of almost 100 years of scholarship on the American Revolution. Scholars, students, and non-specialists will find this work to be an invaluable guide to understanding the revolutionary period of American history.”-Rosemarie Zagarri,George Mason University

“Young and Nobles bring together all the richness that historians have found about the real, dramatic, transforming, liberating, and sometimes tragic American Revolutionary era. Everybody who is seriously interested in how the United States began should read this book.”-Edward Countryman,author of The American Revolution and Americans, A Collision of Histories

“There is no better guide to the recent debates about the social history of the Revolution. Young and Nobles make it clear what is at stake in how we characterize the Revolution's nature and impact. A must-read for all students of the Revolutionary era.”-David Waldstreicher,

"Young and Nobles’ characterizations of their often quirky protagonists are so vivid and so witty that to me, Whose American Revolution Was It? felt less like reading a book than like watching a play.”-Woody Holton,author of Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution

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