Introduction: Expand or Die: The Revolution’s New Empire
Abstract

Does focusing on the American Revolution distort the colonial past to serve a teleology? What happens to our histories if instead we plant the revolution in the middle of a longer flow of change: Does it appear more or less transformative? This joint issue of JER and WMQ explores "writing to and from the Revolution." Dwelling on continuities rather than transformations, the articles cast doubt on how revolutionary the revolution truly was. First, the revolution generated racial distinctions that associated freedom with whiteness. Second, it regularized state formation to balance the interests of older states with frontier elites’ longing for social mobility and secure private property in land and slaves. Third, the revolution accelerated westward expansion to relieve social tensions and reduce taxes in the eastern polities. The patriot victors reaped freedom and prosperity, but that success contained contradictions that would provoke a new civil war.


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