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The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence Paperback – January 20, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0195181319 ISBN-10: 019518131X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019518131X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195181319
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.3 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of this profoundly important book achieves what most historians only dream of. He propels forward to a new stage of understanding a subject-the origins of the American Revolution-that is large, complex and vexed by controversy. Breen's thesis is quite simple: the colonists' experiences as consumers gave them the ability to develop new and effective forms of social action that eventuated in revolution. What's brilliant about the book is that it focuses on the slow development of the shared trust, brought about first by commerce and then by commercial protests (like "tea parties" and boycotts of British goods), essential to sustain a revolution over so large a territory and among so diverse a set of colonies. Trust is not usually a historical subject, but Northwestern University historian Breen (Imagining the Past, etc.) makes it critical to his story. There's much else to lure serious readers-insights, for example, into the awakening of women's political action and into how people can mobilize themselves for what they take to be the common good. But don't be deceived by fluent prose and diverting evidence. This is a demanding book, built upon a lifetime of learning, about a huge subject. It's also, by implication, of great current relevance. What's more, by putting economic boycotts into the center of the Revolution's origins, Breen revives an interpretive theme that's languished for 50 years. This, among many other features of the book, makes clear that those who may have thought that there was not much new to be said about the Revolution were wrong. 40 illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Arguing that the revolution of 1776 was the first in history based on evaporating brand loyalty, Breen draws a rich portrait of a Colonial society saturated with what Samuel Adams called "the Baubles of Britain": everything from fine china to Cheshire cheese. The colonists were divided by religion and industry, but they shared a common identity as consumers of British products—and, increasingly, as wronged consumers, once Britain levied exorbitant tariffs and used America as a dumping ground for surplus goods. Tea, the Coca-Cola of its day, became a symbol of imperial overreach. Colonists reacted with what Breen sees as the Revolution's brilliant innovation: the consumer boycott. Benjamin Franklin told Parliament that, while the pride of Americans had been "to indulge in the fashions and manufactures of Great-Britain," it was now "to wear their old cloaths over again." Because they shopped together, Americans could rebel together.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

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This should be well known because the people of that era recognized that fact as well.
gloine36
Regardless of these problems, Breen's The Marketplace of Revolution provides us with an highly original reinterpretation of the American Revolution.
BlondiePhD
This book isn't just for historians or people that are already interested in american history.
Mike

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Breen writes a nice book here with lots of detail on colonists as consumers, and how the so-called market revolution impacted America prior to the Revolution. He suggests that this mass consumerism was the bond that tied Americans together and was the reason they were able to unite and rebel in 1775. My concern is that when he does expand upon the idea that this consumerism is what made colonists have something in common and allowed them to act in 1775 as a coordinated community, evidenceis lacking and Breen mostly speculates. It must have been so thus it was so, seems to be Breen's basis for conclusion.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By L. Cooper on May 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I found myself approaching this book as an excellent framework, or skeleton, upon which could be hung all of the other histories and biographies of the Revolutionary period. Here we do not deal so much with great historical figures, but rather with the civic discussions that evolved over time among and between everyday people as they transitioned from British patriots into American patriots. This is a compelling explanation of how and why that happened. As primary sources, Breen draws significantly upon the newspapers, letters, advertisements and broadsides that increasingly circulated among what was, at the time, one of the most literate societies on the planet. I found this to be an outstanding piece of work that contributed greatly to my understanding and comprehension of the forces that shaped the birth of this nation.
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Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong T.H. Breen has created a very important research thesis which breaks down stereotypes of the American revolution, his research flows brilliantly but in fact he says in 370 pages what should have been said in 275.

His points are great but he makes the same ones over and over and over. If you love research books than this is your book! I learned quite a bit from it but couldn't read through it again.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Matthew A. Cohen on September 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A strong book written in a very readable style that highlights the contribution of a developing consumer society to the political environment surrounding the revolution.

This book puts the familar events of the revolution in a new (to me) perspective. I had never really considered how incongrous it was for the colonists to attack Tea, but as I was reading those events felt both newly strange and inevitable.

I never felt bogged down in theory or arcane events, and I also felt newly empowered to effect political change through my own consumer choices.

It also provided new insight to me regarding the american art in the period.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on June 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
The American Revolution was one of the pinnacle events in history. T.H. Breen examines the effect that ordinary citizens had toward influencing middle-class gentility in order to democratize colonial society. THE MARKETPLACE OF REVOLUTION: HOW CONSUMER POLITICS SHAPED AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE extends on Gordon Wood's idea of the common man, i.e., farmers and shopkeepers who were despondent on Monarchical rule, and set out to abandon the so-called "Baubles of Britain." Breen explores events that preceded 1775, and draws an emphasis on material culture and its revolutionary effect on the marketplace as well political influence.

Breen expounds that popular mobilization and trust were pertinent factors that helped to create the movement. One of several events that provoked political protest was the Sugar Act of 1764, which brought the realization to the colonists that they had indulged far too long with British goods, services, and regulations that did not produce fair and equal results. Therefore, as a result of their dissatisfaction, the movement against oppressive parliamentary tactics began. And in general terms, the Sugar Act as well as the Stamp Act eventually led to the Boston Tea Party, one of history textbook's most overwrought narratives, but important link toward consumer and political independence.

Although the issues addressed in THE MARKETPLACE OF REVOLUTION are not new, this is yet another event in American history that may have been neglected. For some unfortunate instances, some events take precedent over others amidst patriotic and national independence sentiment thus creating historical myth. However, this is not a myth but an essential part of the chronology of the American Revolution.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By FrugalDutchman on April 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
According to the author, drastic changes in material culture in the North American colonies created the social conditions for revolution. Americans formed a consumer culture in which they took for granted their right to buy and sell freely in the market. Through the marketplace, colonials built a common identity to resist the infringement of the freedom to choose.

Breen adds to the view that Americans spontaneously developed ideology. Ideology does not explain the support of common people. Early explanations of the revolution were simple: God's blessing, democracy, or some great force for good led to freedom. Instead, it was freedom in the marketplace that inspired political freedom. Increases in material wealth brought about the invention of choice. Now there were alternatives to consume and various merchants and producers to support through choice.

Breen argues against the idea that Americans were self-sufficient yeomen. Indeed, Americans were connected through the marketplace. They chose to work harder to consumer more. They defended the right to spend money freely. This was egalitarianism of the market, and it broke down social hierarchy. Americans assumed that commerce would fail without liberty. From the 1740s on, Americans were large consumers of English goods, which were often seen as status symbols. Those who moved to America wanted freedom and did not want to labor for another in manufacturing.

Rather than seeing the market as a force beyond their control, Americans felt an engagement with the market. They saw themselves as an essential link in the British mercantile system. So, it makes sense that Americans invented the consumer boycott. They were the first to organize around the relation of ordinary people to manufactured consumer goods.
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