Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776

Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776

Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776

Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776

Excerpt

Each summer, for more than two hundred years, Americans have clambered across the eastern seaboard searching for "the colonies" and "olden times." The trek is fun but doubly ironic. The homes, public buildings, and churches they tour generally represent only the last half of the colonial era, that is, the years between 1680 and 1770. They see very little from the seventeenth-century colonies established between 1607 and 1680 except through modern reconstructions, such as those at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and at Jamestown Settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. And however odd it may seem, the buildings that look so quaint and so "colonial," such as the famous House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, through which Nathaniel Hawthorne symbolized a crabbed seventeenth-century Puritanism, actually exemplify the first flowering of modernity in America. Taken together, these buildings embody a revolution that utterly transformed the original seventeenth-century British colonies, marking the creation of the first modern society in Britain's colonies before independence. This transformation, which emerged with unplanned force in Britain's mainland colonies between 1680 and 1770, pointed to the future far more than it pointed to the past. It shaped the Revolution of 1776, including the social and political upheaval unleashed by independence, although it cannot be said to have precipitated the Revolutionary War.

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