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The Americas in the Age of Revolution: 1750-1850 Hardcover – November 27, 1996

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Editorial Reviews Review

Within half a century, three European empires fell to American movements for independence. In this innovative and sophisticated account of comparative history, Lester D. Langley considers the revolutions in the American colonies, Saint Domingue (later Haiti), and the "Iberoamerican" independence movements in South America. He compares class leadership, racial factors, and the relative violence of each movement. His study alters the typical framework for analyzing American independence as he considers revolution from a dynamic or systemic perspective. Eschewing questions of causation such as "Why did the revolutions occur?" or "What did they achieve?" he explores instead the importance of place and location as well as what the revolts brought in terms of industrialization, militarization, and material progress. Professor Langley's arguments are based in an intriguing understanding of chaos theory, which he applies to the interpretation of historical experience in order to draw out the roles of probability and randomness as constraints on and conditions for the various revolutionary movements.

From Publishers Weekly

Every serious scholar of United States or Latin American history should own this book. Although it's not a light read, it is an intriguing study and is a vital complement to bibliography of this field. Revolutionary leaders of this era were profoundly influenced by the successes of those that went before. Langley, a professor of history at the University of Georgia and coauthor (with Thomas Schoonover) of The Banana Men, proposes "a portrait of hemispheric political culture in an epoch spanning three wars in the Americas, each of which left a powerful legacy for the new states that took form in their aftermath. In a half-century, three European empires fell to independence movements." This comparative history of the revolutionary age in the Americas emphasizes the social tensions and political upheavals that transformed British North America into the United States, French Saint Domingue into Haiti and Spanish America into South America and Mexico. The author is mindful, however, of the aftermath of violence and the death of empires, and he closely examines the social and political climate of the postrevolutionary periods. But the book is a supplement, not a substitute. While it contains voluminous notes (nearly 70 pages), maps and an index, prior knowledge of the region's history is required for full enjoyment. Langley's study is a valuable matrix of events that can help us better understand the relationships in our hemisphere then and now. Illustrated.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Printing edition (November 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300066139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300066135
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on March 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
"The Americas in the Age of Revolution" by Lester D. Langley is a brilliant comparative history of the American, Haitian and Spanish-American revolutions. Presenting a highly informed and unique perspective on how the new world achieved independence with lessons for us today, Mr. Langley deepens our knowledge and understanding. Superbly written for an educated audience including extensive notes and documentation, Mr. Langley's book is intended to satisfy serious readers of 17th and 18th century history.

Part 1 is about the revolution from above. Mr. Langley argues that the American revolution benefited from the existence of full-functioning colonial governments that greatly facilitated the task of architecting a new republic. Noting the diversity of interests competing for power both within and without colonial territory, Mr. Langley suggests that the Founding Fathers employed populist rhetoric to win support for a system of government that favored a relatively small group of property holders. The author believes that the template for American empire was crafted when Jefferson successfully promoted expansionism as a means to create a sense of national purpose and provide economic opportunity for the masses. Unable to resolve the contentious issue of slavery until the Civil War many decades later, the United States ultimately emerged from its revolution as the leading capitalist state in the hemisphere.

Part 2 is the revolution from below. Mr. Langley suggests the Haitian revolution was memorable not just for its brutality but for its myriad, ever-shifting alliances among groups of participants defined by their ethnic, class and national identities.
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