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Saturday, October 10, 2015

October 10-11, 2015: (Pre-)Revolutionary Scholarship

[October 7th marked the 250th anniversary of the convening of the Stamp Act Congress, one of the most significant moments in pre-Revolutionary American history. So this week I’ve highlighted and AmericanStudied three such pre-Revolution moments, leading up to this special weekend post on some of the best scholarship on this period, past and present!]
A handful of scholarly sources to continue the pre-Revolutionary conversation.
1)      Bailyn and Wood: I know that subsequent scholarship, along with political grumpiness and a certain Good Will Hunting scene, have rendered Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood less monumental than was once the case. But to my mind, no serious student of the pre-Revolutionary period can afford not to read Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967) and Wood’s The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991), among other groundbreaking works by both historians. Scholarship should always be additive rather than competitive, and whatever has been added in the decades since, both these works remain vital contributions to the conversation.
2)      Sobel and Jennings: As I’ve argued many times in this space, however, the Revolution wasn’t simply political or ideological; it also engaged with and challenged many social, racial, gendered, and other communal issues and realities. Two scholarly works that help us remember and contextualize those Revolutionary histories are Mechal Sobel’s The World They Made Together (1987) and Francis Jennings’ The Creation of America (2000), both of which I’ve blogged about before. Pre-Revolutionary America was as diverse, cross-cultural, and contested a space as any in our history, and these two books offer vital perspectives on that moment and all that it helped usher in.
3)      21st century scholarship: Every year sees important new contributions to the scholarly conversation, of course; here are just a few compelling recent examples: Jack Greene’s The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution (2010); Andrew O’Shaughnessy’s The Men Who Lost America (2013); Eric Nelson’s The Royalist Revolution (2014); and the edited collection The American Revolution Reader (2013). As these and many other works reflect, the conversation continues to evolve and grow.
4)      Ben Franklin’s World: That evolution is now taking place in online and digital as well as print form, of course, and Elizabeth Covart’s vital Ben Franklin’s World podcast represents one perfect illustration of the possibilities of these new genres. 41 episodes in at the time of this writing, with each episode featuring an interview with a different scholar, Covart’s podcast has already touched upon countless aspects of 18th century history, culture, and society, and promises to continue expanding our collective perspectives on the period for many more episodes to come.
5)      The Junto: Representing a very different but nicely complementary use of the digital, The Junto website and blog bring together an expanding community of young historians and scholars, all with a shared interest in early American history. The site focuses on a far broader and deeper swath of our history than just the Revolutionary period—but as their use of the “Join, or Die” political cartoon illustrates, that formative period comprised a key starting point for this important example of 21st century, digital Amercan scholarship. One of many reasons why I’m very excited for where these conversations will go in the years to come!
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Scholars you’d highlight?


  1. Don't forget The Junto's long-running podcast, "The JuntoCast," which features in-depth, long-form roundtable discussions. We have done a number of episodes on pre-revolutionary topics and we return from our extended summer hiatus this week with a special episode on Alexander Hamilton. You can find it at: