A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution / Edition 1

A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution / Edition 1

by Marc Egnal
Pub. Date:
Cornell University Press
Pub. Date:
Cornell University Press
A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution / Edition 1

A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution / Edition 1

by Marc Egnal


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First published in 1988, Marc Egnal's now classic revisionist history of the origins of the American Revolution, focuses on five colonies—Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina—from 1700 to the post-Revolutionary era. Egnal asserts that throughout colonial America the struggle against Great Britain was led by an upper-class faction motivated by a vision of the rapid development of the New World. In each colony the membership of this group, which Egnal calls the expansionist faction, was shaped by self-interest, religious convictions, and national origins. According to Egnal, these individuals had long shown a commitment to American growth and had fervently supported the colonial wars against France, Spain, and Native Americans.

While advancing this interpretation, Egnal explores several salient aspects of colonial society. He scrutinizes the partisan battles within the provinces and argues that they were in fact clashes between the expansionists and a second long-lived faction that he calls the "nonexpansionists." Through close analysis he shows how economic crisis—the depression of the 1760s—influenced the colonists' behavior. And although he focuses on the initiative and leadership of the elite, Egnal also investigates the part played by the "common people" in the rebellion.

A Mighty Empire contains insightful sketches of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and other revolutionary leaders and makes clear the human dimensions of the clash with Great Britain. The final chapter provides a new context for understanding the writing of the Constitution and considers the links between the Revolution and modern America. An appendix lists members of the colonial factions and identifies their patterns of political commitment.

Now back in print with a new preface, A Mighty Empire is a valuable addition to the debate over the role of ideas and interests in shaping the Revolution. For the 2010 edition, Egnal reviews how interpretations of the American Revolution have developed since the publication of his landmark volume. In his new preface he considers and critiques explanations for the Revolution founded on ideology, the role of non-elite Americans, and British politics. Egnal also looks to a trend in the writing of the history of the Revolution that considers its effects more than its causes and thereby grapple with the conflicts ingredient in the nascent American empire. With great lucidity, he shows where the writing of history has gone since the appearance of A Mighty Empire and makes a case for its continuing relevance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801476587
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 08/26/2010
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 412
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Marc Egnal is Professor of History at York University. He is the author of Divergent Paths: How Culture and Institutions Have Shaped North American Growth; New World Economies: The Growth of the Thirteen Colonies and Early Canada; and Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War.

Table of Contents

Maps and Figures ix

Preface 2010 xi

Preface to the First Edition xxiii

Note on Definitions xxv

Abbreviations Used in Notes xxvii

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Factions Emerge, 1690-1762 17

1 Massachusetts to 1741: Three Parties Were Formed 20

2 Massachusetts, 1741-1762: Coalition Politics 38

3 New York: Traders and Warriors 51

4 Pennsylvania: Quaker Party Ascendancy 68

5 Virginia: Rise of the Northern Neckers 87

6 South Carolina: Factions Times Two 102

Part 2 Revolutionary Politics, 1763-1770 123

7 The Depression of the 1760s 126

8 Massachusetts: Patriot Alliance 150

9 New York: Reluctant Revolutionaries 168

10 Pennsylvania: Challenging the Quaker Party 191

11 Virginia: Conflict and Cooperation 215

12 South Carolina: Triumphant Patriots 227

Part 3 The Quiet Years, 1771-1773 247

13 The Quiet Years 248

Part 4 The Expansionists Prevail, 1774-1776 271

14 Northern Colonies: Antagonists High and Low 275

15 Southern Colonies: Maintaining Control 302

16 Beyond Independence 328

Appendix. Members of the Factions 339

Index 371

What People are Saying About This

Douglas Greenberg

Combining prodigious scholarship and subtle analysis, A Mighty Empire offers us a new consideration of factional division and class politics in the coming of the American Revolution. A signal contribution to our national history, the book demonstrates that the political and economic experience of Americans during the Age of Revolution shaped their ideas and ideologies and gave form to their aspirations as people and as an expanding nation-state.

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