The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution
The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book of history by Bernard Bailyn. It is considered one of the most influential studies of the American Revolution published during the 20th century.
The book grew out of Bailyn's introduction to the first volume of Pamphlets of the American Revolution, a series of documents of the Revolutionary era which he edited for the John Harvard Library. In the process of reading hundreds of pamphlets published between 1750 and 1776, Bailyn detected a pattern of similarities in argument, language, and invocation of certain figures including Cato the Younger and radical Whig heroes Algernon Sidney and John Wilkes. Bailyn analyzes the content of these popular pamphlets as clues to "the 'great hinterland' of belief" in the English North American colonies, "notions which men often saw little need to explain because they were so obvious." In lyrical prose that channels the radical Whig impulse, Bailyn explains the great hinterland of libertarianism for them.
The book argued against the interpretation, identified with historian Charles A. Beard, that the Revolution had been primarily class warfare between competing social classes. Bailyn found that pamphlet writers sounded the same themes in their private writing as in public, and that their expressed fears of "slavery," "corruption," and a "conspiracy" against radical libertarianism were genuine.
- Bailyn, Bernard (1967). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. pp. 44 (note).
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