The Freedoms We Lost: Consent and Resistance in Revolutionary America

Hardcover (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 40%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 92%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (27) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $1.99   
  • Used (22) from $1.99   


The Freedoms We Lost is an ambitious historical analysis of the American revolution that reinterprets the gains and losses experienced by ordinary Americans and challenges the easy narrative that subsumes the growth of “freedom” into the story of the American nation. Esteemed historian Barbara Clark Smith proposes that many ordinary Americans were in fact more free on the eve of Revolution than they were two decades later.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Smith, curator of political history at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, wishes to re-examine the idea of freedom and consider some ways in which Americans before the Revolution, while lacking the freedom of citizenship, possessed a different kind of freedom that we have lost. In a somewhat scholarly study, Smith finds that many colonists believed that ordinary men had the knowledge and status to govern their everyday lives, establish and enforce community standards, laws, and goals. This form of political agency was often expressed through the household, neighborhood, or congregation. But eventually municipal and other authorities began exercising these functions that had previously been a prerogative of "the people"—replacing direct participation with representation, and placing government, rather than the people, at the heart of political life. Smith's useful study sounds a cautionary note to groups using colonial life to illustrate an essential thread of liberty running through American history, but her overall thesis could have been demonstrated in a journal article. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews

While conservative demonstrators hearken back to the Boston Tea Party, Smith (Men and Women: A History of Costume, Gender, and Power, 1990, etc.), the curator of political history at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, suggests that our revolutionary forebears had quite a different view of freedom.

The author explores how Americans, from the late 1760s to the 1780s, understood the freedoms they believed to have rightfully possessed as colonial British subjects. "When they renounced subjecthood to George III," she writes, "many Americans understood themselves to remain subject to and members within a larger society." The broad coalition that called itself Patriots was organized around a notion of the common good rather than the right to individual freedoms. They recognized themselves as "neighbors and brethren" and formed "a coalition that joined colonists across lines of region, belief, interest, and social class." Despite the colonial restriction of the franchise, the accepted power of the common people to execute the laws established a realm of freedom. This encompassed the role of juries and spectators in determining the outcome of judicial decisions, refusal to collect unfair taxes and the right to demonstrate and protest. Smith establishes a crucial distinction between the modern conservative view—that government is best when it governs least—and the pre-Revolutionary belief that government should be held accountable for "its obligations to execute laws that protected lesser people from the excessive ambitions of the great or would-be-great." During the Revolutionary War, scarcity and the establishment of a paper currency caused a severe inflation and price gouging, which was countered by "a mobilization on an unprecedented scale." Committees frequently met at county courthouses to establish fair prices and provide supplies to the needy. While our notions of individual freedom have broadened and deepened since then, writes Smith, "Americans have lost...awareness of the breadth of the Revolutionaries' eighteenth-century project, which asserted public power to counteract the coercions of the market."

A well-conceived challenge to the claim to historic legitimacy of today's Tea Party demonstrators.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595581808
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/30/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 825,271
  • Product dimensions: 9.76 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Clark Smith is the curator of political history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Her publications include After the Revolution and “Revolution in Boston,” a handbook for the National Park Service Freedom Trail. She lives in Washington, D.C. This is her first trade book.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)