Revolutionary Generation

Overview

What was life like for the young men who came of age inlate eighteenth-century New England? How did the American Revolution and its aftermath shape their outlook and experiences? This book offers a collective biography of the 204 members of the Harvard College classes of 1771 through 1774, men whose lives intersected with the War for Independence and the other formative events of the founding years of the American Republic. The names of a few of these men are still familiar, including painter John Trumbull and ...
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Overview

What was life like for the young men who came of age inlate eighteenth-century New England? How did the American Revolution and its aftermath shape their outlook and experiences? This book offers a collective biography of the 204 members of the Harvard College classes of 1771 through 1774, men whose lives intersected with the War for Independence and the other formative events of the founding years of the American Republic. The names of a few of these men are still familiar, including painter John Trumbull and Congressman Fisher Ames, but this study's principal importance lies in these schoolmates' shared experiences—experiences that were also common to a much wider group of youths who reached adulthood in the 1770s.

Conrad Edick Wright draws on extensive research on the classes that graduated from Harvard immediately before the start of the war to follow their members as they passed through life's common and predictable events from birth and childhood through youth to maturity, careers, marriage, the increasing civic and family responsibilities of midlife, old age, and death. He is also sensitive to his subjects' thoughts and feelings. Unusually articulate and frequently reflective, the men of the Harvard College classes of 1771 through 1774 often revealed their ambitions and concerns through their letters and diaries.

"Revolutionary Generation" provides the most sustained application of life course and life cycle analysis to be found in any study of late-eighteenth- or early-nineteenth-century America. At the same time, it shows on a personal level through the lives of its subjects many of the most important consequences of the War for Independence.

"In this rich, detailed, and compelling new book, Conrad Edick Wright breathes life into a group of men educated at Harvard and tempered by the American Revolution. While he tells his tale like a novelist embracing a cast of fascinating characters, he also provides us with a new understanding of the college, of its place in eighteenth century society, and of the society itself, from which emerged the men who made America. A book for the serious historian and the general reader, too."— William Martin, author of "Citizen Washington and Harvard Yard"

"I can think of no volume in early American studies that moves so fluently and so knowledgeably between the actions of individuals and the broader experiences of a group. . . . This book is a pleasure to read."— Steven C. Bullock, author of "Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840"

"A beautifully written, historically significant book. . . . It contains wonderful stories of real human beings who succeeded and suffered, whose tales bring history alive. . . . There is no other book that so graphically traces the transformation of the Revolution on the lives of real people. . . . 'Revolutionary Generation' is a masterful addition to the literature."— William Pencak, author of "Riot and Revelry in Early America"

CONRAD EDICK WRIGHT is Ford Editor of Publications at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

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Editorial Reviews

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
The book's thesis is clearly and eloquently presented.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558494848
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 6/8/2005
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue : alma mater (September 8, 1836) 7
1 Family pride 11
2 Cambridge College 30
3 Apprenticing for life 59
4 A time for choices 80
5 Revolutionary changes 111
6 The age of responsibility 156
7 Party passions 157
8 The best and the brightest 177
9 The last great change 194
Epilogue : American scholars (August 31, 1837) 216
App Life structures and generations : understanding the Harvard classes of 1771-1774 221
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