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A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence [Paperback]

by Ray Raphael
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 18, 2002 0060004401 978-0060004408

A sweeping narrative of the wartime experience, A People's History of the American Revolution is the first book to view the revolution through the eyes of common folk. Their stories have long been overlooked in the mythic telling of America's founding, but are crucial to a comprehensive understanding of the fight for independence. Now, the experiences of farmers, laborers, rank and file soldiers, women, Native Americans, and African Americans - found in diaries, letters, memoirs and other long-ignored primary sources - create a gritty account of rebellion, filled with ideals and outrage, loss, sacrifice, and sometimes scurrilous acts. . .but always ringing with truth.


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A People's History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence + The Radicalism of the American Revolution + Faces of Revolution: Personalities & Themes in the Struggle for American Independence
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

California-based writer Raphael (An Everyday History of Somewhere; etc.) offers an accessible study of the American Revolution, as part of a series edited by Howard Zinn, and in the tradition of his A People's History of the United States. Most books on the Revolution focus on generals and kings, although scholars have, in the last two decades, turned some of their attention to the lives of ordinary people. Raphael transforms the best insights of that scholarship into a lively, readable narrative. Yes, kings and generals were important, but it was the people at large who brought about American independence. Even before the war started, ordinary people were involved in protesting British abuses, refusing to consume tea and other British luxury items. Women supported the Revolution by spinning their own cloth (rather than buying it from Britain) and working the farms their husbands left behind when the militia called them to the front. Young men eager to "git" their rights uncomplainingly subsisted on moldy bread while they camped out in the snow, waiting to encounter Redcoats. White colonists weren't the only Americans affected by the war. Abenaki Indians, for example, were paid to fight alongside the rebels. Raphael also shows how many slaves, infected with the freedom-fighting spirit, bid unsuccessfully for their own independence via insurrections, escape and reasoning. Both English and American armies wanted the slaves' loyalties, and the slaves, in turn, believed that if they served the winning side, they would gain freedom. Moving from broad overviews to stories of small groups or individuals, Raphael's study is impressive in both its sweep and its attention to the particular. The book will delight, educate and entertain all Revolution buffs. (Apr.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Raphael (Men from the Boys: Rites of Passage in Male America) narrates the American Revolution from the eyes of the common people who, without wealth, authority, or privilege defined and shaped the Revolution. He argues that the Revolution was largely the product not of the patrician classes of Virginia or New England but of the common people. Through letters, diaries, and other accounts, Raphael shows these individualsDwhite women and men of the farming and laboring classes, free and enslaved African Americans, Native Americans, loyalists, and religious pacifistsDacting for or against the Revolution and enduring a war that compounded the difficulties of everyday life and that resulted in a higher percentage of American civilian and military deaths than any of America's other wars except the Civil War. Written for the lay reader, this work synthesizes recent historical scholarship on the Revolution and maintains the high standards of editor Howard Zinn's "People's History" series. Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries.DCharles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State Univ., State College
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: People's History of the American Revolution
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (June 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060004401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060004408
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ray Raphael is a Senior Research Fellow at Humboldt State University, California. His seventeen books include Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past, A People's History of the American Revolution, Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive, and most recently Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary eyes--Uncommon insight May 19, 2001
Format:Hardcover
Intergenerational conflict, gender role upheaval, pacificism and resistance, militarization of children. . . .In 1776 as today, these issues pervaded the lives of ordinary people caught up in the struggles of a small colony locked in conflict with a much larger power. Luckily for us, Howard Zinn, author of the People's History of the United States, has chosen to launch his New Press People's History series with Ray Raphael's A People's History of the american Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. Now we can see those times through the eyes of the ordinary people making the daily choices that created history. Readers familiar with Ray's earlier works have long appreciated his skill at blending the pithy interviews and reliable scolarship that are the best expression of oral history. Looking at the paintings and woodcuts reproduced on the cover of this book, I wondered "Well, how's he going to pull this one off? Seances with some long dead water boy or camp follower?" No need to fear, this is not a frustrating docu-fantasy with scattered facts embedded in imagined dialogue, but a deeply researched volume in which the rarely heard voices of natives, women, slaves, loyalists and religious abstainers are revealed in their own words. In a time when literacy was the possession a few, lasting traces of the ordinary folk were rare and faint, and a whole new and complex landscape of the Revolutionary period opens when we hear what they have to say. Their words in every case enlarge, and often refute, the commonly held beliefs of both "establishment" and "counterculture" history. Read more ›
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filling in the history of this country's birth. September 9, 2001
Format:Hardcover
Most history of the American Revolution focuses on "the founding fathers" and particular events. Ray Raphael's book, the first in a Howard Zinn series, gives credit to everyday people and seldom told events. Adams, Jefferson, Washington et al would have hardly been able to found a country without the massive support of the anonymus masses.
Most impressive about Rapahel's book is that he allows the facts to do the talking. Many authors argue a case but haardly bother to back it up, not Raphael. Equally important, the book is a good read. Some history books with a series of stories become tedious, but Raphel's writing is crisp as he weaves incidents together.
The book also exposes the violent, viscious nature of people, with tarring and feathering and other public humiliations regularly doled out to citizens out of favor in their community. We are reminded that while the common folks were heroes of the Revolution, they were hardly saints in the way they carried out retribution and their perception of justice.
But the primary contribution of the book is to give a fuller more honest view of the American Revolution, how it could happen and who deserves credit, besides those familiar figures so prominent in American text books.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not the best that it could be but still worth reading January 3, 2002
Format:Hardcover
This book continues in the Howard Zinn tradition of trying to focus on groups of people and causes that are not necesarily part of the mainstream. Though not as well written and researched as People's History of the United States, Raphael does do a good job of telling about how different groups saw and participated in the American Revolution. There is plenty of important information such as the large numbers of people in pacifist religious groups like the Quakers and German protestant groups like the mennanites and shakers who were against all war because all the fighting they had seen in Europe through the centuries. It also deals with groups like Native Americans, African Americans and women. These groups were not treated as whole members of society before or after the revolution (not to say that their condition would have improved under continued English rule) so it was interesting to see their involvement and opposition to their war. In addition, the book deals with fronteir groups that suppored American independence, not just northern merchants or southern plantation owners that we are more familiar with.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ok but not the greatest November 13, 2002
Format:Paperback
Raphael's goal is an admirable one, and his topic is of great importance to any study of the American Revolution. Indeed, the "common people" (including women, slaves, and Indians) are too often overlooked in histories of the period, and their roles were critical. For example, the HUGE influence slaves had on how the war was fought in the South is sadly ignored, despite the fact that no understanding of that aspect is complete without it. That said, the book is not the whole story and is best read in combination with a work focusing on the "great men" and events "at the top"--perhaps Gordon Wood or Bernard Bailyn. Such a combination, I think, would provide a fuller portrayal. My major complaint with the book is its inclusion of page upon page of source material. I understand that for some this is a strong point of the work and that Raphael is trying to let these common folk speak for themselves. But the extraordinarily long quotations (sometimes pages in length) prevent Raphael's own voice and analysis from coming through. And in my opinion, the lengthy quotations from secondary sources could have been eliminated and summarized. He would have been well advised to limit the direct quotations and focus on a more in-depth analysis. After all, if one wanted to read straight primary sources, there are collections of documents available. But these flaws notwithstanding, the book deserves a read, if only to fill in the gaps left by high school history courses.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
I found the book to be highly detailed and well researched. The book highlights that the players and reasons of the revolution still have meaning today.
Published 3 months ago by Gilbert Chavez
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
This book gave an interesting view of what the war was like for the ordinary people. It also pointed out to me that from the beginning the US government has not treated veterans... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Diane McCray
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
This is an assignment from my Revolutionary War History course at Yale, through iTunes U. The author has a strong view point, but his research does help me to understand the war... Read more
Published 15 months ago by David J Foster
4.0 out of 5 stars Great as a companion
Interesting and full of new information, this book is a great complement to other general histories of the war. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Dan Graves
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellence in all aspects
I live on an Island in the middle of the ocean. aI do not choose expedited servioce unless I need it immediately. Read more
Published on December 8, 2011 by Amanda Christian
5.0 out of 5 stars The Peoples History of the American Rev.
Excellent. Very informative. This book is filled with all sorts of personal, historical information that is just not fond in any common historical volume.
Published on June 6, 2011 by Tony Finan
1.0 out of 5 stars Socialist retelling of the American Revolution
I picked this book up in the hopes of hearing about ordinary Americans different struggles and perspectives during the American Revolution. Read more
Published on November 12, 2009 by history buff
2.0 out of 5 stars Wish it was better
I really wish this book had been better; there is definitely a need for a book length history of the American Revolution from the "People's History" perspective, but this book... Read more
Published on January 4, 2009 by Joog
3.0 out of 5 stars A Politically Correct History of the American Rev
This author is a deciple of Howard Zinn, which means one should be under no illusions as to what they shall find in this book. Read more
Published on May 8, 2007 by Roger Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Real" American Revolution
Raphael has compiled a first-person account of early America and has the wisdom not to over-editorialize, making this an indisputably factual historical reference. Read more
Published on February 21, 2007 by P. Ward
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