The latest issue of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s online magazine History Now centers on the studying and teaching of the American Revolution.
- Teaching the Revolution, by Carol Berkin
- Inventing American Diplomacy, by R.B. Bernstein
- Lockean Liberalism and the American Revolution, by Isaac Kramnick
- Unruly Americans in the Revolution, by Woody Holton
- The Righteous Revolution of Mercy Otis Warren, by Ray Raphael
- The Indians’ War of Independence, by Colin G. Calloway
- Women and Wagoners: Camp Followers in the American War for Independence, by Holly A. Mayer
I wish they would have asked the likes of Gordon S. Wood or Joseph J. Ellis to contribute. Is there anything wrong with the list, well, No. Just depends on your perspective. I wish there was more balance in their selection of historians.If you don’t know what I mean, oh well.
For example, Carol Berkin writes in the opening paragraph of her contribution, Teaching the Revolution:
For most Americans, young and old, the history of the American Revolution can be summed up something like this: In 1776, all the colonists rose up in unison to rebel against a tyrannical king and the horrible burden of unfair taxes the British had imposed upon them for over a hundred years. During the long war that followed, citizen soldiers shivered in the cold, shared the hardships together, admired George Washington, and won the war singlehandedly against the most powerful army in the world. Then they created a democracy and everyone lived happily ever after.
Except for the part about shivering in the cold, this myth is just that, a myth.
I don’t know about you, but here the description and assumption that “For most Americans” the American Revolution can be summed so simplistically is a total liberal fallacy. Who teaches the American Revolution as described by Berkin? However, this is a brilliant opening, because then this historian can go about telling us how the American Revolution failed and how it was nothing special at all. This is the anti-thesis to my argument and why I feel so compelled to stand up for American Exceptionalism.
Berkin later writes, “By accepting the revolutionary leaders and the framers of the constitution as men of their time we can lay the groundwork for teaching the struggle to create democracy that is the engine of so much of our national history.”
I totally agree, accept them as products of their time and establish the radical and “Exceptional” nature of the struggle they undertook to start something unique and never tried on such a grand scale; they were special.