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In twenty-two original essays, leading historians trace the course of the radical impulses at the founding of the American Republic.
Neither Washington, Jefferson, nor Madison were “revolutionary” in any modern sense of the word: while they cast off imperial dependence, they left unchallenged the underpinnings of most societal structures, as well as slavery, and accepted other class, gender, and racial inequalities. Some of their contemporaries, however, resisted the concentration of power in the hands of the few and believed that “liberty” meant liberty for all. It is these thinkers’ lives, ideas, and accomplishments that are explored here by, among others, Jill Lepore, Alan Taylor, Woody Holton, and Melvin Patrick Ely.
Here is a volume that provides us with a fresh reading of the American Revolution, giving voice and recognition to a generation of overlooked radical thinkers and doers, whose revolutionary ideals outstripped those of the Founding Fathers. It is an essential addition to our understanding of the social conflicts unleashed by the struggle for independence, the Revolution’s achievements, and the unfinished agenda it left for future generations to confront.
“Revolutionary Founders is, to my mind, one of the best recent books on the American Revolution, and one that, unlike so many others, could actually be of use in the college classroom. By focusing on a variety of memorable but forgotten individuals, it shows what the Revolution meant and did in a grounded way, for a variety of persons in different contexts. Several essays would work particularly well to complement, deepen, and even bring into question standard textbook accounts, and to demonstrate that some current issues have deep historical roots.” —Pauline Maier, author of Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787—1788
“The best essays are small gems of exposition, providing both the context and detail necessary to enable readers to recognize the important contributions of these previously unappreciated and largely unknown individuals. . . . In short, Revolutionary Founders is one step, but only one, toward a comprehensive account of the nation’s origins.” –Mary Beth Norton, The New York Times Book Review
“In these 22 provocative essays, leading historians highlight Revolutionary-era people and movements that textbooks and standard accounts skip. . . . Revolutionary Founders aims to test the parameters of what we think we know with new and reinterpreted data and fresh theories. . . . [T]hey offer challenging, surprising perspectives on the turbulent crosscurrents that shaped our nation’s birth.” —American History
“Fast-paced and readable, this remarkable book captures an American Revolution that has long been hiding in plain sight. I emerged with a new set of heroes, a fresh appreciation for complex stories, and a new sense of our own connection to a revolutionary past.” —Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship
“Revolutionary Founders brilliantly restores the struggle for social equality to the central place in the history of American Revolution, and explains how the ‘spirit of leveling’ shaped the making of the new American Republic. For anyone interested in the sources of popular democracy in the United States, Revolutionary Founders is required reading.” —Ira Berlin, author of The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations
“Revolutions free the imagination, making many things seem possible that once were deemed wild visions. Revolutionary Founders introduces into the pantheon of the American Revolution those rebels, radicals, and reformers who passionately committed themselves to act on the conviction that ‘all men are created equal.’” —Joyce Appleby, author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism
“[A] uniformly strong collection, [by] an impressive array of historians–among them, T.H. Breen, Eric Foner, Jill Lepore and Alan Taylor. . . . Editors Young, Nash, and Raphael have solicited wisely, with each contributor adding an important dimension to the controlling theme: ‘We cannot have too much liberty.’ Adds immeasurably to our understanding of the Revolution’s full meaning.” —Kirkus Reviews