- Hardcover: 704 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 6, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393082814
- ISBN-13: 978-0393082814
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804 1st Edition
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“An epic, landmark history that places the American Revolution on a global stage while never losing sight of the struggles and sufferings of major and minor characters… Taylor’s range is masterful.”
- Jill Lepore, author of Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
“American Revolutions is a game changer―a sprawling, ambitious history that forever alters our understanding of the Revolutionary War era.”
- Elizabeth Fenn, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People
“As masterful as its author and as pluralist as its title, American Revolutions combines strong narrative drive with a kaleidoscopic array of settings and characters. In vivid prose animated by prodigious research, Taylor reveals the fight for the independence of the United States as a bloody civil war in which violence and division were the norms and clarity of purpose the exception. This is a sweeping synthesis for a new century.”
- Jane Kamensky, author of A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley
“The new standard work―essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the complicated beginnings of our national history.”
- Peter S. Onuf, coauthor of “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
About the Author
Alan Taylor is Thomas Jefferson Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many acclaimed books in early American history and has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History. His most recent book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832, won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
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Taylor opens with a fairly standard analysis of the aftermath of the Seven Years War and the conflicts it engendered between the American colonies and the metropolitan British state. He particularly emphasizes the conflict over trans-Appalachian settlement, which the British attempted to restrain, inflaming a broad spectrum of the colonial population. This is followed by a very good analysis of the Revolution itself, which nicely integrates a number of topics. These include the civil nature of the conflict within the colonies and the importance of other actors, including the imperial rivalries with France and Spain and the role of Native peoples, and the impact on slaves.
Where this book really excels, is Taylor's analysis of the post-war settlement and events. He very usefully puts the complex diplomatic settlement and post-war diplomacy in a broad inter-imperial context, nicely showing the perilous nature of this situation for the now independent colonies and the ways in which the international events interacted with domestic politics. Likewise, he is excellent on the confused and impoverished state of the American confederation. He focuses on 2 issues in particular, one being the question of debt, at both the state and personal level, and the ways it interacted with class and regional tensions. The second major issue, returning to his analysis of the outbreak of the war, is the tensions and conflicts, both domestic and international, over western settlement. Again reflecting a good deal of important scholarship, the formulation of the Constitution and the founding of the Republic is presented as a conservative-nationalist movement to implement a more stable, elite dominated, and more stable state able to cope better with the major imperial powers of the Atlantic world and Native American confederations. This is followed by the relative failure of Federalism and then the Jeffersonian Democratic state which is essentially a herrenvolk republic based on a solid foundation of slavery and commitment to expansionist expropriation of Native peoples.
Like all of Taylor's books, this one is quite well written. My only significant criticism is that Taylor could have stressed the highly contingent nature of the survival of the Revolution and subsequent establishment of the Republic. The America that emerged by the end of Jefferson's Presidency was made possible by poor British military leadership, what amounts to a draw between the British and their imperial rivals, the outbreak of the French Revolution, and the unique success of the great Haitian slave revolt.
Big histories are not easy to write and often a chore to read, but when they are written well, they are a joy. I teach. It’s hard to get through a large book like this with my old grad school speed, but I found myself sharing Taylor’s stories and insights with my students as we worked our way through this period. Take your time with this history. Pour your favorite spirit and enjoy the craft of one of our best historians.
I found this 'extended essay' a riveting read and those who find in it a mere 'trashing of America' had best stick with Fox News versions of America.
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