Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia / Edition 1

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In this provocative reinterpretation of one of the best-known events in American history, Woody Holton shows that when Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other elite Virginians joined their peers from other colonies in declaring independence from Britain, they acted partly in response to grassroots rebellions against their own rule.

The Virginia gentry's efforts to shape London's imperial policy were thwarted by British merchants and by a coalition of Indian nations. In 1774, elite Virginians suspended trade with Britain in order to pressure Parliament and, at the same time, to save restive Virginia debtors from a terrible recession. The boycott and the growing imperial conflict led to rebellions by enslaved Virginians, Indians, and tobacco farmers. By the spring of 1776 the gentry believed the only way to regain control of the common people was to take Virginia out of the British Empire.

Forced Founders uses the new social history to shed light on a classic political question: why did the owners of vast plantations, viewed by many of their contemporaries as aristocrats, start a revolution? As Holton's fast-paced narrative unfolds, the old story of patriot versus loyalist becomes decidedly more complex.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Its lively style and wealth of anecdotes will make it an enjoyable read for anyone.

Journal of American Studies

May be the most important book on the political culture of Revolutionary Virginia since Rhys Isaac's The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790.

Journal of Southern History

The main strength of Holton's book is his effort to place the actions of the Virginia gentry within a more detailed local context.

Law and History Review

[He] portrays the coming of the Revolution in Virginia as deeply bound up with competing social groups.

American Historical Review

This book gives us a brisk and convincing analysis of a region—and revolutionary leaders—we thought we already knew.

Journal of American History

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Woody Holton is assistant professor of American history at the University of Richmond.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Part I. Grievances, 1763-1774
1. Land Speculators versus Indians and the Privy Council
2. Tobacco Growers versus Merchants and Parliament

Part II. Boycotts, 1769-1774
3. Nonimportation
4. Nonexportation

Part III. Unintended Consequences, 1775-1776
5. Free Virginians versus Slaves and Governor Dunmore
6. Gentlemen versus Farmers

Part IV. Independence, 1776
7. Spirit of the People
8. Epilogue


Figure 1. Conflicting Indian Boundaries of 1768
Figure 2. Sir William Johnson's Testamonial
Figure 3. Drawing of a Pipe; A Belt and Strings of Wampum
Figure 4. Virginia and Its Neighbors, 1776
Figure 5. John Robinson
Figure 6. Crime Scene Detail
Figure 7. Arthur Lee
Figure 8. The Alternative of Williams-Burg
Figure 9. Article 4, Continental Association
Figure 10. Attack on Hampton
Figure 11. Rumors of Slave Plots in the James River Watershed
Figure 12. Williamsburg Gunpowder Magazine
Figure 13. John Murray, Fourth Earl of Dunmore
Figure 14. "A List of Negroes That Went Off to Dunmore"
Figure 15. Landon Carter

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Look at a Hot Issue

    Why did the American Revolution occur, was it really a bunch of brow beaten colonists tired of the tyranny of an oppressive government? Holton's look at the subject is easy to read, factual, bursting with references and gives the reader an interesting look at a subject we all learn about since grade school.
    His three main focuses... land and Indians, Slavery, and the spiraling Colonial economic system really changes the perspective on why the revolution was fought.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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