With the possible exception of the Civil War, no period in American history has received more attention than that of the country's founding. Not only was the American Revolution a struggle for power and an event of world-historical significance, it was also, in many respects, an attempt to realize the ideals of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Abraham Lincoln was by far the outstanding figure in the "team of rivals" that became his wartime cabinet, but the makers of the Revolution were by comparison an all-star team. Merely to list the outstanding names -- Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison, Paine -- is to recognize that this was the most talented generation in American political history. In a world in which monarchy still linked most people upwardly and downwardly in gradations of subordination and servility, they proclaimed the principles of liberty and equality.
How did the intellectual inheritance of the Founders combine with social conditions in the colonies to cast off centuries-old social patterns in favor of what was then the most radical political experiment in the world, replacing deference to status with an insistence on rights? And how did the Americans manage to defeat the mightiest empire of that era in the Revolutionary War? Our course combines the findings of recent scholarship on the military, political, and social history of the Revolution with close reading of works by the Revolution's greatest figures. Each lecture will pair a chronological and thematic survey of major events in the Revolution with a reconsideration of one of the Founders (some of whom will be considered from multiple perspectives over several weeks).
The Imperial Crisis/Benjamin Franklin
The revolution from Franklin's unique perspective.
The Seven Years' War - the first global war, and the origins of the revolution.
Gordon S. Wood,
The American Revolution: A History,
FURTHER READING FOR THE TEN WEEKS
Here is a PDF document you can download and print with Prof. Thompson's reading for the whole quarter.