The Radicalism of the American Revolution

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Vintage Books, 1991 - 447 pages
13 Reviews
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Perhaps, as is often noted, the American Revolution was not as convulsive or transforming as its French and Russian counterparts. Yet this sparkling analysis from Wood impressively argues that it was anything but conservative. The rebellion left fundamental institutions scathed. Wood pictures colonial society as overwhelmingly deferential--to king, to family patriarch, and to aristocrats--with "personal obligations and reciprocity that ran through the whole society." But patriots such as Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, aspiring to become gentlemen, resented this entrenched order of patronage and kinship. Their classical republicanism stressed benevolence and government by an enlightened elite. To their dismay, however, they discovered that their rhetoric unleashed all the latent entrepreneurial and egalitarian energies of American life, which even the elaborate mechanism of the Constitution could not completely contain. Among the results, Wood says, were a new concept of the dignity of labor, improvements in the lot of women, the first significant antislavery movement, and the frank acceptance of private interest underlying the political party system. Above all, Wood suggests, the Revolution produced the messy, fractious politics of liberal democracy, dominated by ordinary people pursuing commercial interests. A provocative, highly accomplished examination of how American society was reshaped in the cauldron of revolution.

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User Review  - wagner.sarah35 - LibraryThing

A good look at early American history, centered around the American Revolution. I appreciated the author's focus on social, cultural, and political change (the Revolutionary War barely gets a mention ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Jarratt - LibraryThing

I know this is a well-reviewed book, but its academic prose and subject matter weren't to my taste. The writing was good and the subject well researched. But I've found that the more academic the book ... Read full review


Patricians and Plebeians
Patriarchal Dependence

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About the author (1991)

Gordon S. Wood is Alva O. Way Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University. His books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the Bancroft Prize-winning The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin, and The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. He writes frequently for The New York Review of Books and The New Republic.

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