The noblest ideals and aspirations of the peoples of the United States of America - its commitment to freedom, constitutionality and equality - came out of the Revolutionary era. The story is a dramatic one. Thirteen insignificant colonies of His Britannic Majesty King George III, three thousand miles from the centres of Western civilization, fought off British rule to become, in fewer than three decades, a huge, sprawling, rambunctious republic of nearly four million citizens. It is also a complicated and at times ironic story that needs to be explained and understood, not blindly celebrated or condemned. How did this great revolution come about? What was its character? What were its consequences? These are the questions this short history seeks to answer. That it succeeds in such a profound and enthralling way is a tribute to Gordon Wood's mastery of his subject, and of the historian's craft.
But with that caveat in mind, this is nonetheless and excellen introduction to the social, intellectual, and political origins and consequences of the American Revolution. In concise and highly readable prose, Gordon Wood deftly synthesizes the main points of several decades of historical scholarship that have shown that the intellectual influences on the American colonists were much broader than John Locke, and that their struggle needs to be understood in the context of a long tradition of distrust of the British crown and court by country gentry in both Britain and the colonies, and that the Revolution and American constitution need to be understood in terms of the Republican ideology they espoused rather than the Lockean liberalism more characteristic of American politics since the late-nineteenth century. In the final three chapters, Wood does a masterful job of distilling the essence of his two groundbreaking but difficult tomes -- The Creation of the American Republic (1969) and The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991) -- showing how dramatically the Revolution re-shaped the eighteenth century social and political world in ways that the founders did not anticipate and could not control.
A good, quick survey.
Plus the bibliography is probably the most badass bibliography I have ever read, essentially a roadmap to what you should read if you're interested in any specific facet of the subject.
That said, the book succeeds pretty well in what it sets out to do, which is, mainly, to outline the outcome and aftermath of the Revolution. It was interesting and easy to read, even for someone like myself who doesn't particularly care for non-fiction or Colonial history. I'll just have to look elsewhere for an overview that's at least slightly more in-depth (not to mention focused on the Revolution itself).