- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press; Enlarged edition (March 1, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674443020
- ISBN-13: 978-0674443020
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 75 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Enlarged Edition
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The leaders of the American Revolution, writes the distinguished historian Bernard Bailyn, were radicals. But their concern was not to correct inequalities of class or income, not to remake the social order, but to "purify a corrupt constitution and fight off the apparent growth of prerogative power." They wished, in other words, to mend a broken system and improve upon it. In doing so they drew on many traditions of political and social thought, ranging from English conservative philosophers to exponents of the continental Enlightenment, from backward-looking interpretations of ancient Roman civilization to forward-looking views of a new American people. Bailyn carefully examines these sources of sometimes conflicting ideas and considers how the framers of the Constitution resolved them in their inventive doctrine of federalism.
With this reading of the American Revolutionary Experience, Mr. Bailyn has substantially and profoundly altered the nature and direction of the inquiry on the American Revolution. In the process he has also erected a new framework for interpreting the entire first half-century of American national history...A landmark in American historiography. (American Quarterly)
Tightly written and politically sophisticated...In the field of American Revolutionary Studies Bailyn's book must henceforth occupy a position of first rank. (Saturday Review)
The most brilliant study of the meaning of the Revolution to appear in a generation. (History)
One cannot claim to understand the Revolution without having read this book. (New York Times Book Review)
A distinguished achievement. Mr. Bailyn writes with the authority and integrity that derive from a thorough mastery of the material. His meticulous scholarship is matched with perceptive analysis. (New York Review of Books)
In every area of Bernard Bailyn's research--whether Virginia society of the 17th century or the schools of early America--he transformed what historians had hitherto thought about the subject. In The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, the most famous of his works, Bailyn uncovered a set of ideas among the Revolutionary generation that most historians had scarcely known existed. These radical ideas about power and liberty, and deeply rooted fears of conspiracy, had propelled Americans in the 1760s and 1770s into the Revolution, Bailyn said. His book, which won the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes in 1968, influenced an entire generation of historians. For many, it remains the most persuasive interpretation of the Revolution. (Gordon S. Wood Wall Street Journal 2009-02-28)
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I go this book as part of Judge Napolitano's History 101 course for FreedomWorks University. The book focuses on the development of thought amongst the early American public, particularly as perceived through the prolific pamphlets published during those times. The best part of the books is its summary of those thoughts and the tracing of the development.
However, as a single book by a single author (as opposed to an anthology or collection of writings), I occasionally got bogged down in the reading. It was my interest in the subject that helped me to keep going. I don't know whether the presentation could have been made any clearer or could have been made to flow better, but if you decide to tackle this volume, you may experience some of the same.
The other point I wished to make is somewhat of the opposite nature. After only a comparatively few chapters, suddenly the book was over. In the Kindle edition, a huge chunk of the book is made up of notes and index. In a paper edition, I would have been following the notes as I read and would have realized the proportions of the main text. It was simply unexpected on my part.
Having said all of that, I still think the person with a keen interest in the subject will appreciate the book and will probably have a greater desire to try to wade through many of the pamphlets cited in the volume.
My only complaint about the book is its excessive use of overly long footnotes, some of which overflow onto the next page. These footnotes would have been easier to read as endnotes. Alternatively, some of the more interesting content in the footnotes could have been incorporated into the primary text. This might be the publisher's fault more than Bailyn's.