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American Insurgents, American Patriots

June 3, 2010

Brooke Allen in Barnes & Noble Review:

The historian T. H. Breen has written American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People to fill what he perceives as an imbalance in current representations of the American Revolution. “The vast majority of Americans,” he begins, “have never heard the people’s story. Instead, we have concentrated on the lives of a small group of celebrated leaders. Without the people, however, there would have been no Revolution, no independent nation…. [A] handful of elite gentlemen arguing about political theory make for a debating society, not a revolution.”

It’s true that in recent years we have seen a steady stream of popular books about the Founding Fathers, and this perhaps has been at the expense of our appreciation of the vital role ordinary people played in the Revolution. But it’s doubtful whether Americans have ever really lost sight of these people: their story is in the very air we all imbibe as we make our way through the school system. (I notice that Johnny Tremain, for instance, already an old chestnut many years ago during my own childhood, is still on the required reading list at many middle schools.) Valiant farmers, artisans, and apprentices taking to arms: it is part of the very fabric of our national mythology. [More]

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