In her recent recap (5 of 6) of the recent American Revolution Reborn conference at Penn, Liz Covart covers the session on power and the American Revolution. The panel featured Woody Holton, Matthew Spooner, Mark Boonshoft, and Bryan Rosenblithe. Here is a taste of Covart’s coverage:
Biggest Takeaway: Power further complicates the story of the American Revolution. Historians need to address the experiences of the poor, elite, loyalists, revolutionaries, disaffected, slaves, and imperial viewpoints when they discuss power and the Revolution.
Biggest Question: How do scholars frame a narrative of the Revolution to include the experiences of the educated elite, slaves, and the implications of European imperial politics?
Boonshoft wanted to show how the Great Awakening in the Middle Colonies set the stage for the Revolution. Until now historians have promulgated the view that the Awakening affected the Revolution by democratizing political relations. However, Boonschoft sees the Awakening as giving rise to a group of elitist conservatives, not democratic insurgents. The Awakening did not democratize social relations. Education lay at the heart of many of the constitutional disputes during the Revolution. The Revolution proved a signal moment in the lives of the Revolutionary generation because the Revolution allowed them to take the reins of power.
Spooner argued that southern society amplified the power, messiness, disorder, disaffection, and violence of the American Revolution. Scholars will be able to see both the promise and the limits of the Revolution if they study the South. Spooner also pointed out that the present historiography contains books about the Revolution and books about slavery. He would like to see slavery included in historians’ narratives about the Revolution.
Rosenblithe proposed extending the periodization of the Revolution to the 1750s. The British acquisition of territory during the French and Indian War effected how people looked at imperial politics. These views indicate that the Peace of Paris 1763 proved tenuous at best. The Revolution was a moment of imperial rupture. Scholars must deepen their understanding of eighteenth-century European imperial politics to understand the Revolution as a crisis of empire.
Read the rest here.
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