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American Revolution


  • Originally published 08/06/2013

    Revolutions: Three Different Kinds

    Alyssa's posting, like Peter Stearns' earlier, implicitly touch on the questions of leadership and revolutionary stages. Perhaps in any discussion of revolutions it may be worth keeping in mind that those who begin revolutions rarely are the ones who finish them. (The American Revolution, perhaps better called by its other common term, the War for Independence, is an anomaly that perhaps misleads Americans about revolutions.) In comparing revolutions and leadership, perhaps several variants are worth keeping in mind:1) Places where the revolution “succeeds,” in the sense of the old regime being swept away, but successive leadership changes and even mini-revolutions and regime changes occur before things are stabilized in a new order, as in France after 1789 and Russia in 1917.2) Those (rare?) instances where the original revolutionaries successfully sweep away the old regime and replace it by something genuinely new that is reasonably stable and permanent, such as Turkey with Ataturk.3) Instances where revolutionaries have temporary success but the old regime soon reconstitutes itself in slightly altered form (“Revolution of 1905” in Russia, 1848 in Central Europe).

  • Originally published 07/12/2013

    The Military Played a Smaller Role in France and the U.S. than in Egypt

    The political independence that the military often displays in the midst of revolutionary situations was strikingly absent in both the American and French revolutions. Both depended on militias composed of citizen soldiers. Even as an army was constituted, this remained the case at least for a good while.Let me consider the French case as I know it much better. In fact, the revolutionary uprising (July 12-14, 1789) that led to the capture of the Bastille already revealed that some of the royal army had, in fact, absorbed the rising tide of revolutionary spirit. The troops called up largely refused to intervene. The effective fighting force that actively favored the revolution proved to be poorly armed citizenry, but taking the Bastille was accomplished less by armed assault than persuasion. When the revolutionaries got around in succeeding months to organizing the army, they installed elections by the troops as a way of peopling the officer rank.

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Paul Pirie: The American Revolution Was a Flop

    Paul Pirie, a former historian, is a freelance writer in Ontario.The easiest way of assessing whether the United States would have been better off without its revolution is to look at those English-speaking countries that rejected the American Revolution and retained the monarchy, particularly Canada, which experienced an influx of American refugees after the British defeat. The U.S. performance should also be assessed against the ideals the new country set for itself — namely, advancing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  • Originally published 07/08/2013

    James P. Byrd: Was the American Revolution a Holy War?

    James P. Byrd is an associate dean at Vanderbilt University and the author of “Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution.” Holy war can seem like something that happened long ago or that happens far away — the Crusades of medieval Europe, for example, or jihadists fighting secular forces today. But since their country’s founding, Americans have often thought of their wars as sacred, even when the primary objectives have been political.This began with the American Revolution. When colonists declared their independence on July 4, 1776, religious conviction inspired them. Because they believed that their cause had divine support, many patriots’ ardor was both political and religious. They saw the conflict as a just, secular war, but they fought it with religious resolve, believing that God endorsed the cause. As Connecticut minister Samuel Sherwood preached in 1776: “God Almighty, with all the powers of heaven, are on our side. Great numbers of angels, no doubt, are encamping round our coast, for our defense and protection.”

  • Originally published 07/01/2013

    Journal of the American Revolution interviews T.H. Breen

    I recently asked our readers via Facebook who they’d most like to see interviewed next and T.H. Breen was among the handful of historians named (hat tip to Matthew Kroelinger). Breen is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University and a specialist on the American revolution. He is the author of several books and more than 60 articles. In 2010, he released his latest book, American Insurgents, American Patriots. Breen won the Colonial War Society Prize for the best book on the American Revolution for Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (2005). Breen currently lives in Greensboro, Vermont, and recently took the time to answer a few questions about past and future works, recommended reading and time travel.1 // American Insurgents, American Patriots reminds us that revolutions are violent events. Do you think there was a greater strategy behind most of the violence, or was it primarily raw emotion and vengeance?

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    NC corrects Revolutionary War marker

    After nearly 75 years, a piece of local Revolutionary War history has been rewritten.On Friday, a state historical marker indicating a decisive Revolutionary War battleground in Alamance County was changed to reflect more accurate information unearthed by two historians.“Alamance County has been told the incorrect information since 1938,” Stewart Dunaway said to a Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution tour group, which had gathered at the fork of N.C. 49 and Anthony Road, south of Interstate 40/85....

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Andrew Edwards: How Austerity Pushed American Colonists to Revolt

    Andrew Edwards is a PhD student in American history at Princeton University. The opinions expressed are his own.As the euro area tries to wrestle member states into fiscal submission through bailouts, austerity and capital controls, it would be well advised to consider a historical precedent: the American Revolution.In the early 18th century, North America held a role in the British Empire that was similar to the one occupied by Cyprus or Slovenia in the euro area today. Americans were slavers, smugglers, rumrunners and fanatics -- as “opulent, commercial, thriving” as they were irresponsible and fiscally profligate. But as the empire struggled to stay solvent after the Seven Years War, the government of Prime Minister George Grenville attempted to bring the colonists to heel in the name of fiscal austerity.“The Circumstances of the Times, the Necessities of the Country, and the Abilities of the Colonies, concur in requiring an American Revenue,” wrote Thomas Whately, a Grenville ally, in 1765.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Frontier Fort From Revolutionary War Found in Ga.

    Less than two months after British forces captured Savannah in December 1778, patriot militiamen scored a rare Revolutionary War victory in Georgia after a short but violent gunbattle forced British loyalists to abandon a small fort built on a frontiersman's cattle farm.More than 234 years later, archaeologists say they've pinpointed the location of Carr's Fort in northeastern Georgia after a search with metal detectors covering more than 4 square miles turned up musket balls and rifle parts as well as horse shoes and old frying pans.The February 1779 shootout at Carr's Fort turned back men sent to Wilkes County to recruit colonists loyal to the British army. It was also a prelude to the more prominent battle of Kettle Creek, where the same patriot fighters who attacked the fort went on to ambush and decimate an advancing British force of roughly 800 men....

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    George Washington: The Forgotten Emancipator

    George Washington at Yorktown, by Auguste Couder. P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; } This article is adapted from Thomas Fleming’s new book, A Disease In the Public Mind – A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War.

  • Originally published 04/30/2013

    French tourism campaign "ignores" Sword Beach

    D-Day veterans have criticised French tourism officials after they unveiled a new promotional campaign about the Normandy landings which ignores one of the beaches where British troops went ashore.The initiative covers only four of the five areas where Allied forces landed on 6th June 1944, omitting 'Sword' beach, where almost 700 British troops were killed or wounded.The new campaign was launched earlier this month by six tourist boards along the Normandy coast. They have joined up to create an area they are promoting with the slogan of the landings’ “secteur mythique” (mythical sector). This stretches from Utah in the west, across all the other beaches where troops came ashore but stops short of Sword, at the eastern end.It also excludes a part of the adjacent Juno beach, where Canadians soldiers invaded, as well as drop zones further inland where airborne troops landed by parachute or glider, including the area around Pegasus Bridge....

  • Originally published 04/08/2013

    Pa. field holds secrets of 1780s British POW camp

    The mud of a south-central Pennsylvania cornfield may soon produce answers about the fate of British prisoners of war — and the newly independent Americans who guarded them — during the waning years of the American Revolution. A few miles east of York, the city that briefly served as the fledgling nation's capital after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, more than a thousand English, Scottish and Canadian soldiers were imprisoned at what was then known as Camp Security....

  • Originally published 04/07/2013

    Gilder Lehrman's Flawed History of Emancipation

    Image via Shutterstock.Publishers and curriculum developers are racing to align social studies lessons with new national Common Core literacy standards. Most are clearly motivated by financial incentives -- they want to sell textbooks, workshops, and online packages to school districts anxious to comply with new demands.

  • Originally published 04/07/2013

    Pennsylvania field holds secrets of 1780s British POW camp

    YORK, Pa. –  The mud of a south-central Pennsylvania cornfield may soon produce answers about the fate of British prisoners of war -- and the newly independent Americans who guarded them -- during the waning years of the American Revolution.A few miles east of York, the city that briefly served as the fledgling nation's capital after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, more than a thousand English, Scottish and Canadian soldiers were imprisoned at what was then known as Camp Security.The fight to preserve the plot where those soldiers and their captors worked and lived has lasted almost twice as long as the Revolutionary War itself. And the end is in sight -- if its backers can raise the last few hundred thousand dollars needed to pay for it....

  • Originally published 03/24/2013

    Channelling Ben Franklin

    “I’ve been told by my friend Washington that you want to talk to me.” “Dr. Franklin! I didn’t really think you’d respond. Mr. Washington told me you only express occasional interest in American affairs.”“I summed up my attitude at the Constitutional Convention. I told them we’d created a republic -- if they can keep it. That says it all -- or at least quite a lot of what I thought -- and still think.”“Without you, they might not have reached an agreement.”“True enough. I saw the antagonisms boiling between perfectionists and realists and for a while wondered if I should have stayed home. It was no place for an eighty-one-year-old man with bladder stones that made it uncomfortable to stand up.”

  • Originally published 02/17/2013

    Luther Spoehr: Review of Robert Sullivan's "My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)

    Luther Spoehr is a book editor for HNN and senior lecturer at Brown University.As a native Pennsylvanian, I’m always glad to see the Middle Atlantic states get their historical due, even when, as in this case, New York and New Jersey get more attention than the Keystone State, and even when the presentation is far from conventional. Robert Sullivan, whose articles have appeared in the New Yorker and elsewhere and who has written books on topics ranging from rats to Henry David Thoreau, looks at the landscape of the American Revolution, treating the terrain as a kind of palimpsest and trying, through research and imagination, to peel back the layers and see it as it was almost two-and-a-half centuries ago.

  • Originally published 01/25/2013

    Actually, Women Have Served in Combat Before

    Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the leading female Soviet sniper of World War II.After more than a year of planning, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta overturned the ban on women's ability to serve in combat roles in the United States military. Panetta's removal of the ban followed an official recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin E. Dempsey. This decision to allow women to occupy the front lines came yesterday as a formal gesture following the last decade of women's unofficial service in combat positions; since 2001, around 280,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.While the Senate Armed Services Committee may have an opportunity to reverse the decision through legislative means, prospects look hopeful for this shift in the military's stance, which was largely a decision made internal to the military itself. By May 15 of this year, the different branches of the armed services are expected to present specific implementation plans for their integration of women into combat roles, including requests for exceptions to the new policy.

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