The American Revolution

Trevor Burnard

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
The American Revolution

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
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As a transformative event in American, world, and Atlantic history, the American Revolution has always attracted great interest. One of the results is an enormous literature, meaning that any bibliography is necessarily selective and partial. There are two major ways in which scholars have viewed the American Revolution and two major ideological approaches that they have taken to their studies. The American Revolution can be viewed as the culmination of colonial British American history. In this reading, colonial British American history is but a precursor of the main event. In these accounts, the main aim is to see how the American Revolution led to the creation of the United States. It is thus a key event in the development of American nationalism and the American state. Although a number of works listed in this article illuminate this approach, this article sees the American Revolution as part of a larger age of revolutions, encompassing the French, Haitian, and Latin American Revolutions, and sees it as arising out of global contexts and having major consequences as a key event in the birth of the modern world. Most of the events leading up to the American Revolution and the War of Independence itself are well known. What remains contested is how those events are interpreted. One school of thought—the Whig or neo-Whig approach—stresses the Revolution as caused mainly by ideological difference. Whig historians of the Revolution tend to see the American Revolution as having mainly political rather than socioeconomic consequences. The second school of thought—termed the Progressive school—sees the American Revolution as a social as well as a political revolution, akin to the French and the Russian Revolutions. The early-20th-century debates that set the parameters are well surveyed in Greene 1968, cited under Reference Works.

Article.  9490 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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