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Faces of Revolution: Personalities & Themes in the Struggle for American Independence Paperback – September 1, 1992

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The American Revolution was far from inevitable, argues Bailyn, Harvard professor and Pulitizer Prize-winning historian ( Voyagers to the West ), who contends that ideological passion and human will tipped the scales in favor of revolt. Hastening the rupture were John Adams's conviction that British policies were evil and bankrupt Quaker corset-maker Tom Paine's aggressive attack on those who feared severing ties with Mother England. In the book's eight masterful biographical sketches, we also meet Thomas Jefferson, shedding his "deep conventionality" for pragmatic political decision-making, and Boston shopkeeper Harbottle Dorr, compiler of a massive, annotated dossier of newspapers and pamphlets. Four thematic essays highlight the antifederalist challenge to the Constitution and the reactionary muddle in Britain whose "every major institution was inadequate to its task." History Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This book of essays comprises nine previously published articles on the American Revolution and an unpublished paper on the Constitution. Restating his well-known consensus thesis, Bailyn contends that an American people, united by a democratic, individualistic spirit, inevitably separated from the centralized authority of the British king and, refining their ideology, created a national government which safeguarded personal liberty. Though sometimes providing a compelling explanation for the motivations of Revolutionary leaders, Bailyn generally offers a simplistic view which largely ignores the many complex, conflicting interests within and between the American elite and the general populace. He adds little to his Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (LJ 4/15/67). Recommended for historiographical purposes. History Book Club alternate; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/90.
- David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736233
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #626,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent collection of essays dealing with, as the title suggests, the key people and ideas of the revolutionary period. It is extremely well-written and well-argued and draws upon a lifetime of scholarship.
His biographical vignettes flesh out the personal characteristics and ideas of key figures (great description of John Adams: "driven and uneasy"). Particularly interesting among these were the two lesser known figures: Thomas Hutchinson and the unknown Harbottle Dorr. The conservative (especially in temperament) Hutchinson found himself unable to respond to--effectively, if at all--or understand revolutionary ideas or motivations. Harbottle Dorr, who I suspect will never appear in a textbook, kept a fascinating collection of Boston newspapers, which he indexed and annotated throughout the period; his story is a deep insight into what was driving "regular" revolutionaries and how they were engaging the ideas of the time.
The thematic essays are also particularly good. "1776 in Britain and America: A Year of Challenge--A World Transformed" was especially enlightening. It places American events and ideas in the broader context of what was occurring in Britain; this annus mirabilis witnessed the publication not only of Paine's "Common Sense," but also Gibbon's "Decline and Fall," Smith's "Wealth of Nations," and Bentham's "Fragment on Government," among several other lesser known works. This was a world in flux, with ubiquitous economic growth and a population explosion--as well as vast movements of people.
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Format: Paperback
'All history is biography,' the saying goes, and while that may or may not be true in the absolute, it's certainly true that the best way to understand how 'movements' and 'forces' affect history is by studying the lives of the individuals who shape, and are shaped by, them.
Bernard Bailyn is one of our leading historians (maybe THE leading historian) on the American Revolution. His classic 'Ideological Origins of the American Revolution' casts a huge shadow, not least over this small but valuable collection of 'personalities and themes in the struggle for American independence.'
Here, Bailyn gives us in-depth portraits of patriots John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, as well as a fascinating portrayal of the loyalist Massachusetts governor Thomas Hutchinson, one of the leading Americans of his time but almost forgotten today. And he introduces us to Harbottle Dorr, a Boston shopkeeper whose writings give us a priceless look at how the Revolution affected middle-class Americans. Then, in a special chapter on religion and the Revolution, Bailyn writes about three preachers and their experience of, and influence on, the themes and issues of American independence.
The last two chapters, 'The Central Themes of the American Revolution,' and 'The Ideological Fulfillment of the American Revolution: A Commentary on the Constitution,' are alone worth the price of this volume.
History has no stage on which to play out its drama save in the lives of individuals (unless you're talking about geology or astrophysics, I guess, but why ruin a good epigram?). A student of the Revolution, or of intellectual history, would benefit much from this fine, though lesser-known, work of an excellent historian.
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Format: Paperback
The other reviewers have done a terrific job of reviewing this book. My short opinion is that this author did a tremendous job with the first and last third of the book. A little disjointed, it's not an easy read but within the first and third sections, lots of interesting information on the development of our great country.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You can review the book by looking at the online sample. More important than my review, is the fact that it's a text for the online Yale University course taught my Joanne Freeman and about the American Revolution. I will be using it as a resource for my website PatriotsAndRedcoats.Com.
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