American Revolution: People and Perspectives

American Revolution: People and Perspectives

American Revolution: People and Perspectives

American Revolution: People and Perspectives

Synopsis

Moving beyond traditional texts, this revealing volume explores the world of the average citizens who played an integral part in the Revolutionary era of American history.

Excerpt

Few events in U.S. history are more associated with a handful of elite white men than the American Revolution. Americans typically associate the late eighteenth-century movement for independence with privileged politicians and generals, the events in which they participated, and the documents they created. It is hard to imagine the Revolution without George Washington and his crossing of the Delaware River in 1776 or Thomas Jefferson and his writing of the Declaration of Independence. (For modern books that focus on the Founding Fathers, see Fischer, 2004; Fischer, 1994; Ellis, 2001; and Ellis, 2004.)

Traditionally, the story of the Revolution has followed these and other proverbial “dead white men on horses” along their paths to mythic immortality. The story of the experiences of the so-called Founding Fathers, though, is drastically incomplete, and the findings of social historians have led many recent scholars to interpret these individuals within their social contexts. The Revolution was fought and shaped by men and women of all walks of life—whether farmers, day laborers, Indians, Africans, enlisted soldiers, sailors, children, women, Loyalists, or recent immigrants. In cities, on farms, and in the backcountry, ordinary Americans were central actors in the unfolding drama. They understood the importance of the conflict and made choices according to their religious teachings, economic needs, political connections, personal ambitions, and local contexts. From their vantage points, the Revolution was an ideological, political, economic, military, and, perhaps most important, social event. This volume explores the Revolution as a social event and reveals how ordinary Americans of diverse interests and backgrounds understood and experienced the eighteenth-century movement for independence. (Other works have synthesized modern social history scholarship on the Revolution; see Raphael, 2001. For a more balanced view, see Countryman, 2003.)

Few observers at the time denied the broad participation of the masses during the War for Independence. The military struggle, itself only a part of the revolutionary experience, brought a new set of realities for soldiers and civilians. Families dealt with the injuries and deaths of loved ones, the absence of male relatives from their homes and daily lives, and an economy . . .

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