Thursday, May 30, 2013

American Revolution Reborn: A Historiographic Overview

Are you new to the historiography of the American Revolution and want to get up to speed for today's The American Revolution Reborn conference in Philadelphia?

If you answered "yes" to this question (or even if you answered "no") check out Michael Hattem's primer, "The Return of the American Revolution."  Here is a taste:

There have been significant and exciting developments in synthesizing imperial studies and Native American histories, even to the point of incorporating the Ohio Valley into the Atlantic world. Imperial studies are also helping early American historians to conceptually situate the Revolution in a global, rather than simply Atlantic, context.

However, in spreading out the Revolution, we seem to have thinned out the center. That is, we appear to have avoided re-engaging with the coming of the Revolution in the colonies. A decade ago, Jack Rakove wrote that “the major causal problems of explaining why the Revolution occurred” had been “largely solved” in the “1960s and 1970s.” That is a hefty historiographical assertion. Rakove is certainly right when he says that his generation’s interpretation of the political and cultural causes of the Revolution “has survived intact and largely unchallenged for a quarter century now.” In fact, Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution was originally published as an introduction to his edited collection of revolutionary pamphlets forty-eight years ago. That generation’s largely intellectual account of a constitutional crisis remains the basis (though no longer the totality) of how we understand the political coming of the Revolution and, especially, how it is taught to undergraduates.