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War, Revolution and People Edward Countryman.~ People in J_?~volutio_n: The American Revolutwn a~dPolit1calSociety mNew York,1760-1790. Baltimore: The Johns HopkinsUniversityPress, 1981. 388 +xviii PP· ~dele Hast.Loyalismin Revolutionary Virginia: The Norfolk Area and the Eastern Shore. Ann Arbor:UMI Research Press, 1982. 227 +xiipp. Robert Middlekauff.The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. New York: OxfordUniversityPress, 1982. 696 +xvipp. William Pencak.War.Politics& Revolution mProvincial Massachusetts.Boston: Northeastern UniversityPress, 1981. 314+ xvipp. Charles Royster. Light Horse Harry Lee and theLegacyof the American Revolution. New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.301 + xivpp. Ann Gormon Condon The eighteenth century, much like our own times, was a century of total war. Periods of peace were brief and infrequent. Periods of conflict engulfed the continents of both Europe and North America and surged along the major trade routes of the world. Wars for empire, native uprisings, colonial rebellions and civil wars were all part of the century's history. Canada was transferred , India conquered, America liberated, France convulsed and England made very, very rich. Under the repeated hammer blows of war, social and political structures were pounded thin, pierced and then reconstituted to admit new groups and new values. The enduring fascination of these wars istheinsightsthey provide into the nature of global conflict and the changes which individuals and societies undergo in times of such severe stress. TheAmerican Revolution is among the more interesting of these encounters becauseit included both traditional elements of imperial warfare and the new ideological and social currents that began to transform war and society inthe last third of the eighteenth century. In its fullness, the American Revolution was really three wars. It was a war for independence, the first suchin modern times and thus an exemplar for others. Simultaneously, it provoked or permitted an internal social revolution in several of the colonies which in some cases degenerated into partisan warfare and which had importantimplications for the ultimate political structure and ideology of the American republic. Finally the Revolution was a mythologizing event by means CanadianReview of American Studies, Volume 15,Number 3, Fall 1984, 287-299 288 Ann Gormon Condon of which the new nation acquired a set of sacred texts, rituals and heroes which embodied its highest ideals and formed the basis of its nationalism. It is easy to get excited about the American Revolution, to see in its idealism and its savagery, its new courage and its old venality, a chunkof history worth knowing better. It is not easy, however, to get it all downon paper, as hundreds of historians over several generations can attest. John Adams' question about who can write the history of the Revolution haunts us all. Howindeed does one convey the dynamics of such a panoramic event'! Does one construct a broad, magisterial compendium, in the traditionof Bancroft and Channing? Or does one borrow the technology of the social sciences to shine a laser beam upon isolated aspects of the revolutionary experience? The five books under review display both of these approache·s as they are at work in modern scholarship. Three focus on the war itselfthose by Middlekauff, Hast and Royster- each with an entirely different theoretical an~ substantive approach. The final two- by Pencak and Country· man-analyze social groupings within individual colonies and provideimpor· tant new statistical evidence on the structure of the internal revolution. Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause is a blockbuster book. Big, lavishly illustrated, beautifully printed and jacketed, it is the first volumeto be published in the new "Oxford History of the United States" (althoughit is numbered Volume II in the series). It is "narrative history," the author informs us, designed "to revive at least part of the passions and commit· ments of the people who struggled and fought" (p. vii). Nothing couldbe more worth doing or more timely. The need for a first-class general history synthesizing the new scholarship and making it available in nonspecialist terms to the general reader is a matter of great urgency. Indeed the failure over the past thirty years to produce such a comprehensive study, other than college texts, raises serious questions about whether the historical profession is meeting its public obligations any more. Certainly there...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 287-299
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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