Jane T. Merritt
Old Dominion University
Revolution and American Identity
From 1776 on, the ideals and myths surrounding the Revolution have been invoked repeatedly to explain American institutions and identity--or who we are as a people. This course is an introduction to the principal writings and interpretations of the era of the American Revolution from the early eighteenth century to the ratification of the Federal Constitution of 1787. Our weekly readings and class discussions will focus especially on eighteenth-century American society and culture; the British Empire and its relationship to the colonies; the ideological underpinnings of the independence movement; the effects of revolution on women, African Americans, and Native Americans; popular political actions; and the attempts to create new forms of government in the aftermath of the war.
Besides providing an overview of the Revolutionary period in America, the course also seeks to train students in the arts and habits of critical thought and expression. We will spend class time discussing current historical interpretations and analyzing primary source material. This is not a lecture course, though some essential background material will be provided. Class participation is required.
The required texts listed below can be purchased in the book store. All of them, except the Brown book, will also be on reserve in the main library at ODU.
1. Richard D. Brown, ed., Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, D.C. Heath, 1992.
2. Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Vintage Books, 1991.
3. Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution, W.W. Norton, 1972/1991.
4. Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783, W.W. Norton, 1979.
5. Colin G. Calloway, The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
6. Adair and Schutz, eds., Peter Oliver's Origin & Progress of the American Revolution, Stanford University Press, 1961.
7. Sylvia Frey, Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age, Princeton University Press, 1991.
8. Patricia Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America, Oxford University Press, 1986.
9. Edmund S. Morgan, Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America, W.W. Norton, 1988.
There will be a variety of written assignments for this course all geared towards critical interpretation of historical writings and sources. Written work should be typed, doubled-spaced, and appropriately cited. (See Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.)
Critical Essays. The student will write TWO 5-page critical essays during the semester. There will be several choices and due dates. Each essay will focus on one of the assigned monographs and related article readings. You will be given some guiding questions that will help you explore the author's thesis, sources, and historical methods.
Primary source analysis. For week five (September 23), everyone will prepare a 4 to 5-page essay that compares the tone and purpose of two key documents of the American Revolution, The Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
Historiographic Essay. The final project for the semester will be a 20-25 page historiographic essay that explores a particular theme of the course in more depth. For this assignment, you must choose at least 5 or 6 of the assigned readings--at least 4 of these must be monographs, you may also use the articles in Brown, Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution and any additional recommended readings on the syllabus. DUE December 2, 1997. Further instructions will be handed out separately.
Class Discussion and Participation:
It is crucial to attend the seminar. There will be substantial class discussion which makes up a good portion of your grade.
The assignments for this class make up the following proportion of the semester grade:
Critical Essays and primary source analysis 45% (15% each)
Class participation 20%
Final Seminar paper 35%
WEEK ONE - Introduction (August 26)
WEEK TWO - Interpreting the Revolution (September 2)
READING: Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 1
WEEK THREE - The British Empire and Colonial North America (September 9)
READING: Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 2
Recommended: Fred Anderson, A People's Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War; Francis Jennings, Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years' War in America.
WEEK FOUR - Reforming the Empire (September 16)
READING: Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 3
Recommended: Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution; Peter D.G. Thomas, The Townshend Duties Crisis: The Second Phase of the American Revolution.
WEEK FIVE - Popular Resistance and Ideological Origins of Revolution (September 23)
READING: Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 4
Recommended: Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution; Peter Shaw, American Patriots and the Rituals of Revolution.
WEEK SIX - The Continental Army and Colonial Society (September 30)
READING: Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 5
Recommended: Robert A. Gross, The Minutemen and Their World; Don Higginbotham, War and Society in Revolutionary America: The Wider Dimensions of the Conflict.
WEEK SEVEN - Fighting a Military War (October 7)
READING: Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 6
Recommended: Jonathan R. Dull, A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution; John E. Shelby, The Revolution in Virginia, 1775-1783.
WEEK EIGHT - Native Americans and the West (October 14)
READING: Colin Calloway, The American Revolution in Indian Country; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 7 (260-265 and 274-283)
Recommended: Daniel Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy, the Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783; Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815; Gregory Evans Dowd, A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815.
WEEK NINE - Loyalists and Loyalties (October 21)
READING: Peter Oliver's Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 7 (265-273 and 283-299)
Recommended: Hoffman, Thad Tate, and Peter J. Albert, eds., An Uncivil War: The Southern Backcountry during the American Revolution; Janice Potter, The Liberty We Seek: Loyalist Ideology in Colonial New York and Massachusetts.
WEEK TEN - African-Americans during the Age of Revolution (October 28)
READING: Sylvia Frey, Water From the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 8 (308-311 and 330-351.)
Recommended: Ira Berlin and Ronald Hoffman, eds., Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution; William D. Pierson, Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England.
WEEK ELEVEN - Women and Revolution (November 4)
READING: Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 8 (302-308 and 311-330)
Recommended: Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect & Ideology in Revolutionary America; Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800; Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert, eds., Women in the Age of the American Revolution.
WEEK TWELVE - The Religious Dimensions of Revolution (November 11)
READING: Patricia Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 9
Recommended: Ruth H. Bloch, Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought, 1756-1800; William G. McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 1630-1833: The Baptists and the Separation of Church and State.
WEEK THIRTEEN - The Articles of Confederation and Early Years of Unity (November 18)
READING: Brown, Major Problems, Chapters 10 and 11
Recommended: David P. Szatmary, Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection; Gordon S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787.
WEEK FOURTEEN - Creating a Federal Constitution (November 25)
READING: Edmund Morgan, Inventing the People; Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 12.
Recommended: Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution; Peter S. Onuf, "Reflections on the Founding: Constitutional Historiography in Bicentennial Perspective," William and Mary Quarterly, 3d Ser., 46 (1989), 341-375.
WEEK FIFTEEN - Ratification and a Bill of Rights (December 2)
READING: Brown, Major Problems, Chapter 13
Recommended: Jackson Turner Main, The Antifederalists: Critics of the Constitution, 1781-1788; Saul Cornell, "Aristocracy Assailed: The Ideology of Backcountry Antifederalism," Journal of American History, 76 (March 1990), 1148-1172.