In this Book

The Lamp of Experience
summary

In a landmark work, a leading scholar of the eighteenth century examines the ways in which an understanding of the nature of history influenced the thinking of the founding fathers.

As Jack P. Greene has observed, "[The Whig] conception saw the past as a continual struggle between liberty and virtue on one hand and arbitrary power and corruption on the other." Many founders found in this intellectual tradition what Josiah Quincy, Jr., called the "true old English liberty," and it was this Whig tradition—this conception of liberty—that the champions of American independence and crafters of the new republic sought to perpetuate. Colbourn supports his thesis—that "Independence was in large measure the product of the historical concepts of the men who made it"—by documenting what books were read most widely by the founding generation. He also cites diaries, personal correspondence, newspapers, and legislative records.

Trevor Colbourn is President Emeritus of the University of Central Florida.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition: 1943 and All That
  2. pp. xi-xx
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  1. Preface to the 1965 Edition
  2. pp. xxi-xxiii
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  1. Part One: The English Heritage and the Colonial Historical View
  2. pp. 1-2
  1. Chapter I. History and the Eighteenth-Century Colonist
  2. pp. 3-24
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  1. Chapter II. The Colonial Perspective: Ancient and Medieval
  2. pp. 25-47
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  1. Chapter III. The Colonial Perspective: Tudors, Stuarts, and Hanoverians
  2. pp. 48-68
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  1. Part Two: The Revolutionary Use of History
  2. pp. 69-70
  1. Chapter IV. The New England Historical Conscience
  2. pp. 71-99
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  1. Chapter V. John Adams: Political Scientist as Historian
  2. pp. 100-128
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  1. Chapter VI. Three Pennsylvanians: John Dickinson, James Wilson, Benjamin Franklin
  2. pp. 129-162
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  1. Chapter VII. The Historical Mind of the South
  2. pp. 163-192
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  1. Chapter VIII. Thomas Jefferson and the Rights of Expatriated Men
  2. pp. 193-225
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  1. Chapter IX. The Whig Historical Tradition and the Origins of the American Revolution
  2. pp. 226-236
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  1. Appendix I: The Saxon Myth Dies Hard
  2. pp. 237-244
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  1. Appendix II: History in the Colonial Library
  2. pp. 245-286
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 287-305
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