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The Declaration of Independence: A Global History

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674030329
ISBN-10: 067403032X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harvard history professor Armitage (Greater Britain, 1516– 1776: Essays in Atlantic History) examines how America's Declaration of Independence influenced the revolutionary struggles of people around the world. Armitage begins by teasing out the world as the Declaration imagined it: the international community consisted of "peoples linked by both benign and malign forms of commerce," as well as divided by warfare and "threatened by outlaw powers." He then describes how the world reacted to America's Declaration: it almost immediately sparked debate about the basis on which a state was legitimate. Finally, Armitage traces the ripple effects of the Declaration: today half the world's countries have such declarations. The author compares and contrasts these other documents with the American one, showing how other nascent nations sometimes drew on America's language and ideas, such as a statement of grievances. Armitage suggests that this succession of declarations constitutes "a major transition in world history": what was once a world of empires has become a world of sovereign states. This core argument is fascinating and significant, though lengthy appendixes, including several declarations, will interest primarily scholars. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In this survey of the Declaration of Independence's immediate and long-term influence, Armitage argues that its initial effect was on international law, by its assertion of a new state claiming equality with other states. By contrast, "all men are created equal" took much longer to take hold in the world. Aware of the Declaration's innovation in international affairs, British commentary strove to refute the Declaration's justifications for the British colonies becoming independent: both historian Edward Gibbon and philosopher Jeremy Bentham lent their intellects to the anti-independence case. Once the successful War of Independence settled the matter, Armitage impresses how the Declaration acquired milestone symbolism in the international system, its phrases sometimes copied verbatim in the numerous declarations of independence that have accompanied the world's transition from empires to states. Containing texts of a dozen such declarations, Armitage's readable study restores historical context to our own, truly revolutionary Declaration. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (December 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067403032X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674030329
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It was long known that the U.S declaration of Independence inspired others including Haiti, New Zealand, Hungary and Rhodesia. This book is an attempt to survey a few of those and ask important questions about the nature of such declarations. It is nice little book although it is not encyclopedic. It does miss a few declarations that are obviously modeled on the American one and the book could have gone deeper to examine the way in which the U.S declaration influenced others and why it didnt influence some. That would have been an interesting aside, nevertheless this is a first step and it merely begs someone to complete the project.

Incisive and intelligently written, a quick and enjoyable read.

Seth J. Frantzman
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Armitage's work, though far from comprehensive, is an excellent "conversation starter" regarding the immense influence the U.S. Declaration of Independence has exerted upon world movements towards self-empowerment. And the reader need not take Armitage's word alone as the gospel: the oblong volume includes a broad selection of "declarations of independence" from around the world, including those from such diverse locations as Liberia, Texas, and Israel.

Armitage analyzes the ideological influences writers have felt from Jefferson's document, and offers his interpretations regarding the importance of those influences. His work is a key discussion on an emerging field in American archival study.

However, this book is simply not long enough. Only half of the volume is devoted to Armitage's research. The remaining half is given over to sample declarations, Jefferson's rough and final drafts for the Second Continental Congress, a British rebuttal to the American document, and a table listing almost all independence pronouncements from 1776 to 1993. Armitage has opened the discussion--it remains for a further scholar, or perhaps Armitage himself--to take it to the next level.
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This book offers a fresh perspective on what may be the most familiar document in American history. What David Armitage shows is that the Declaration quickly became an international document, a template for dozens, hundreds in the end, of other movements for national independence around the globe. From Vietnam to Palestine it seems the American Declaration became like a form letter nationalists could download and fill in the blanks according to whatever particular grievances supported their claim to independence. This is meant to be a succinct, focused argument about the influence of the Declaration around the globe and across time. It is written in a crisp, lucid style that students and general readers will find very accessible.
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