Historiographic Review Essay

The historiography of a broad topic in history such as the American Revolution and Early Republic consists of a number of subtopics and questions around which scholars focus their energy. The purpose of this assignment is for you to explore how scholars have addressed historiographic issues over time. This is the building block toward thinking about how to make your own contribution to a historiographic debate, a project you will undertake next semester in HIST 250 (Historical Research & Writing).

The assignments related to the essay, which are listed on the course assignments page and below, will lead you through the steps of developing a project. To determine your topic, however, you’ll need to do some thinking and researching on your own, and then read independently. Consider what subtopics or fields most interest you, what sorts of questions that we’ve discussed so far this semester that you would like to pursue further, or simply what book or articles you might like to read.

Coming up with a good historiographic question is difficult and requires considerable reading in a field to refine and shape. The project, therefore, will develop over the rest of the semester as you learn more about historians’ perspectives on a particular issue. We will spend time in class talking about how to frame a good (meaning answerable and effective) historiographic question, but you should also feel free to visit office hours to discuss your ideas. And more importantly, remember that you will end up in a different place than you start.

If you’re struggling to think about how to start, below is a list of recent scholarship on the American Revolution. It is not meant to be comprehensive, nor are you required to select a work from this list. However, if you have no specific ideas about what you might want to write about, check out some titles and reviews and pick something that looks interesting!

Submit your files through Dropbox here. (Instructions at the link.)

Proposal (10%) – due Monday, October 29

Your proposal should be 300-500 words and explain your thinking about a historiographic question and list at least three possible articles which you would like to read for the assignment. YOu should include citations formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style.

You can find articles through library databases such as Project MUSE, JSTOR, or use Ram Search.

Annotated Bibliography (10%) – due Wednesday, November 14

For the annotated bibliography, you should include at least five articles and one book that you have consulted for the project and include a brief paragraph (100-200 words) for each explaining the argument of the piece.


1,000 Words (5%) – due Monday, December 3

This start to your draft will be the basis of individual appointments during the week of December 3.


Final Draft (20%) – due Wednesday, December 19 (11:00 a.m.)

The final version of the essay should be between 2,500 and 3,500 words, not including notes or bibliography. It is due by by the end of the final exam time assigned by the Registrar.

Possible Books to Start

  • Brannon, Rebecca. From Revolution to Reunion: The Reintegration of the South Carolina Loyalists. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Breen, T.H. The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Brown, Christopher Leslie. Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism. Chapel Hill: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, by the University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
  • Cameron, Christopher. To Plead Our Own Cause:African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement. American Abolitionism and Antislavery. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2014.
  • Fitz, Caitlin. Our Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of American Revolutions, 2016.
  • Gaffield, Julia. Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition After Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
  • Gould, Eliga H. Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.
  • Hinderaker, Eric. Boston’s Massacre. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2017.
  • Holton, Woody. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.
  • Hoock, Holger. Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth. First edition. New York: Crown Publishing, 2017.
  • Irvin, Benjamin H. Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Jasanoff, Maya. Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
  • Johnson, Ronald Angelo. Diplomacy in Black and White: John Adams, Toussaint Louverture, and Their Atlantic World Alliance. Race in the Atlantic World, 1700-1900. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2014.
  • Klepp, Susan E. Revolutionary Conceptions:Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820. Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  • McBride, Spencer W. Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America. Jeffersonian America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017.
  • Merritt, Jane T. The Trouble with Tea: The Politics of Consumption in the Eighteenth-Century Global Economy. Studies in Early American Economy and Society from the Library Company of Philadelphia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.
  • Miller, Marla R. Betsy Ross and the Making of America. 1st ed. New York: Henry Holt, 2010.
  • Park, Benjamin E. American Nationalisms: Imagining Union in the Age of Revolutions, 1783-1833. Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • Pincus, Steven C. A. The Heart of the Declaration: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government. Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.
  • Saunt, Claudio. West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776. First edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.
  • Van Buskirk, Judith L. Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution. Campaigns and Commanders ; v. 59. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017.
  • Waldstreicher, David. In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820. Chapel Hill, NC: OIEAHC, University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
  • Zabin, Serena R. Dangerous Economies:Status and Commerce in Imperial New York. Early American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.
  • Zagarri, Rosemarie. Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic. Early American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.