The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America

The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America

by Gary B. Nash
     
 

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In this audacious recasting of the American Revolution, distinguished historian Gary Nash offers a profound new way of thinking about the struggle to create this country, introducing readers to a coalition of patriots from all classes and races of American society. From millennialist preachers to enslaved Africans, disgruntled women to aggrieved Indians, the people so… See more details below

Overview

In this audacious recasting of the American Revolution, distinguished historian Gary Nash offers a profound new way of thinking about the struggle to create this country, introducing readers to a coalition of patriots from all classes and races of American society. From millennialist preachers to enslaved Africans, disgruntled women to aggrieved Indians, the people so vividly portrayed in this book did not all agree or succeed, but during the exhilarating and messy years of this country's birth, they laid down ideas that have become part of our inheritance and ideals toward which we still strive today.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tightly though densely written, this expertly researched tome shakes the "stainless steel" history of the American Revolution to its core." —Publishers Weekly 

"You will never think about the Revolution in the same way." —Alfred F. Young, author of Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier

"What Nash does in The Unknown American Revolution is dislodge the founding fathers to give the dynamism of urban craftsmen, slaves, ‘dockside tars,' and ‘club-wielding farmers' a more prominent place in the history of the movement."  —The Boston Globe

Publishers Weekly
The history of the American Revolution that most of us have absorbed is but "a fable," writes UCLA historian Nash. In this insightful, challenging "antidote to historical amnesia," Nash (Race and Revolution) deftly illustrates that while the Revolution has been implanted in our collective memory as the idealized "Glorious Cause," in reality it was more a chaotic and bloody civil war, replete with fragile alliances, a multitude of fronts and clashing cultures. He especially succeeds in detailing the crucial role and often overlooked plight of Native Americans, adding the obscure names of men such as Cornplanter, Dragging Canoe and Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, who allied the Iroquois nation with the British, to the pantheon of the Revolution's players. By 1789 Washington was forced to commit a third of his army to destroying the Iroquois, explicitly ordering that their villages "not be merely overrun but destroyed." Of course, Native Americans who remained neutral or fought alongside the Americans fared no better later at the hands of settlers. Tightly though densely written, this expertly researched tome shakes the "stainless steel" history of the American Revolution to its core. (June 27) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Nash (history, UCLA; Red, White and Black) examines the American Revolution from the perspective of the ordinary people involved, e.g., women, laborers, farmers, Native Americans, and slaves, making the case that those who actually fought and won the Revolution deserve the credit for it. As Nash reveals, the clean, linear history of the Revolution taught in school simply is not true; it was actually a very messy, chaotic, and fragmented affair. The narrative focuses on the latter half of the 18th century, examining the revolutionary activities of common people, from the New Jersey farmers asserting their property rights in the 1740s to the plight of African Americans after the war. He debunks many myths of the Revolution, such as that of the citizen soldier (most soldiers were in fact poor and landless immigrants) and unearths many lesser-known facts (e.g., in 1776, New Jersey's constitution implicitly gave women the right to vote-until the legislature narrowed suffrage in 1807). Well written, thought-provoking, and controversial, this complement to Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the founding of the country. Recommended for all libraries.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ. Lib., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The American Revolution, writes Nash (History/UCLA; History on Trial, 1997), was messy, deadly, and radical through and through-far from the sanitized, mythical version of the textbooks. Call this an alternate textbook, one that pauses to mention Thomas Peters, who took freed slaves to Canada and helped found Sierra Leone, and Dragging Canoe, a Cherokee who took the occasion of the Revolution to press for his own people's rights. There were many revolutions in play, says Nash, some with long antecedents, not least in the Great Awakening that, having ignited civil war in England a century earlier, brought religious fervor to the class struggle of smallholder vs. gentry up and down the seaboard. (Matters were not helped when the Crown passed the Quebec Act, which guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics.) The struggle also had a strong economic component, as a British general, Thomas Gage, observed; once the "people of property" whipped up the lower class to protest the Stamp Act, they were amazed to find the crowd turning against them and "began to be filled with terrors for their own safety." Nash reminds us that the Revolution was a civil war, fought against other Americans as much as English troops, and that the burden of the fight was borne by "those with pinched lives, often fresh from Ireland or Germany, recently released from jail or downright desperate"; the valiant minutemen, it seems, preferred to stay home and duck paying taxes, prompting one French volunteer to observe that there was more enthusiasm for the cause of American freedom in the average Paris cafe than in the colonies. Tantalizingly, Nash evokes a secret history by Continental Congress secretary Charles Thomson, whoamassed a thousand pages of notes, buried them, then dug them up and burned the lot. "I could not tell the truth without giving great offense," he later remarked. "Let the world admire our patriots and heroes."This complex, subtle work leaves room for admiration, but also for less exalted thoughts. A fine corrective to the usual hagiographies.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143037200
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/30/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
555,851
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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