The American Revolution: A History

by Gordon S. Wood

Paper Book, 2002




New York : Modern Library, 2002.


Presents a concise history of the American Revolution and the birth of the American republic, from the earliest hints of revolt and unrest through the ratification of the Constitution.

User reviews

LibraryThing member JFBallenger
The title of this book suggests that it is a general history of the Revolution, but this is a bit misleading. In fact, it focuses fairly narrowly on the Revolution in social relations and political theory. It's treatment of the actual military conflict is quite cursory. It also gives short shrift to one of the main currents of recent scholarship on the Revolution -- the significant but largely overlooked role of marginalized groups like the white urban underclass, free blacks and slaves, Indians and women.

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.
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LibraryThing member MarkBeronte
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member AsYouKnow_Bob
Actually, only about a quarter of the text of this short (166p) volume is a thumbnail history of the Revolution proper; the rest being a summary of the causes and effects.

A good, quick survey.
LibraryThing member JBD1
A very concise and readable history of the Revolution, its origins and its aftermath. Marred by a lack of citations, but the wound is not mortal. Worth a read.
LibraryThing member Scott_Hercher
Gordon S. Wood's history of the American Revolution is a general analysis of the revolution, its causes, and outcomes. His introduction briefly outlines the historiography of the Revolution, from the early hagiographic view of the revolution as the product of heroic individuals, to more recent emphases on the now-apparent inconsistencies between the rhetoric and continued slavery, marginalization of women and mistreatment of native Americans. Wood tries to accommodate all these views while reconciling the notion of the Revolution as an intellectual product and the Revolution as the product of social change.

Nevertheless, Wood's interpretation reads more like an attempt to ingratiate himself to generations of graduate students. He seems to completely dismiss the role of heroic or great individuals. The founding fathers as individuals make few appearances. When I was in graduate school, the common critique of a book was that there were no women, or no blacks, or no [insert your favorite underrepresented group]. But in Wood's American Revolution, there are barely any people at all. To Woods, the American Revolution is not a thrilling story populated by heroes and villains and ordinary people, but an inexorable chain of events, demographic patterns, and social trends.

Gordon S. Woods is a great historian and a very good reader, and The American Revolution moves along easily, but it wasn't the history I wanted.
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LibraryThing member gregorybrown
A brilliantly compact general survey of the American Revolution, starting with the factors that led up to it and ending with the ratification of the constitution. Speaking as someone whose elementary, middle, and high schools covered it mostly on a military and mythic level - with the historiography stalled out somewhere in the 19th century - the book did an amazing job of illustrating the true variety of causes and contexts that this seminal event held. I know most readers come at this subject through the biographies of various Founding Fathers, but if you're going to read one book about the American Revolution, this should be it.

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.
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LibraryThing member jonwwil
When I saw the size of this book, I realized that it wasn't going to be a comprehensive history, but that was fine by me. I was just looking for an overview of the Revolution, highlighting key events leading up to and throughout the war, as well as notable personalities on all sides. Even with that relatively low bar in mind, I was disappointed by what I got. It's hard to imagine that a book called The American Revolution would gloss over the actual Revolution, but that's exactly what it did.

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).
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