Revolutionary America (Fall 2010)

Revolutionary America
Department of History
Johns Hopkins University
Fall 2010

Joseph M. Adelman Mon. and Weds., 1:30-2:45
Gilman Hall 342 Maryland Hall 104
Office Hours: Mon., 11-12, and Weds., 2:45-4

This course will examine the causes, character, and consequences of the American Revolution, a war that was at once a civil war for self-governance, and also one episode in a century-long quest for European imperial dominance.  The Revolution set in motion the creation of the United States, a reshaping of the British Empire, and a series of democratic revolutions in the Atlantic world.  At the same time, it wrought significant changes in the social structure of the new United States and had long-lasting cultural impact.

The course has a number of goals.  First, it traces the conflicts from the beginnings of colonial resistance through the contentious process that led to the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  Second, it considers the varied experiences of Indians, African-Americans, ordinary men and women, loyalists and rebels.  Third, it emphasizes the wider ramifications of the conflict, particularly the impact of the Revolution on the larger world.


1. Class participation (25%)

Daily attendance is necessary for your success in this course.  If you must miss class you need to get notes from a classmate; I will not provide lecture notes.  Classes will include lecture, discussion, and in-class activities.

Participation is a vital component of the course.  It will not only improve your grade, but also make the experience more interesting and perhaps even fun for you and your classmates.  Please be sure to have read the assigned readings before discussion as noted on the syllabus, and be prepared to offer comments and questions about the readings and lectures.  Remember, quality counts just as much as quantity.

2. Primary Source Analysis Paper (15%), due September 22

This paper, which should be 2-3 pages in length, will put an assigned document into its historical context and suggest what can be learned from it as a historical source.  Detailed instructions will be distributed one week in advance.

3. Midterm paper (20%), due October 20

Students will complete an essay question of approximately 5-7 pages, based on material covered during the first half of the course.  Students will have the opportunity to re-write this paper based on the comments turned back.  Revised drafts will be due one week from the day they are returned to students.

4. Critical Analysis Paper (15%), due November 22

As part of the course, we will view the movie Mary Silliman’s War.  This paper of 2-3 pages will evaluate students’ understanding of the film and its depiction of the American Revolution.

5. Take-home final examination (30%), due on date set by registrar for final exam

The final examination will be based on a single essay prompt, which will be distributed on the last day of classes, and due on the date set by the registrar for the final exam.  It will require a broad base of knowledge of lectures and readings for the entire course.  The final exam should be 10-12 pages in length.

Required Texts

Fred Anderson, The War that Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War (New York: Penguin, 2006).

Carol Berkin, A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution (New York: Harcourt, Harvest Books, 2002).

Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (New York: New York University Press, 2009).

Joseph Plumb Martin, A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier (New York: Signet, 2001).

Gary B. Nash, Race and Revolution (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

Thomas Paine, Common Sense (New York: Penguin, 1986).

Other readings available on E-Reserves (marked with an (E)) or on Blackboard (marked with a (B)).

Optional reading: The lectures for this course will cover the major themes and events of the American Revolution.  However, if you feel that a background text would enhance your understanding of the period, I recommend Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), or Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution (New York: Modern Library, 2002).

Academic Integrity

The academic community is built upon the free, open, and honest exchange of ideas and opinions.  In order to achieve such an environment, students need to be confident that their peers are holding themselves to the same high standards.  Cheating undermines the reputation of a university’s degrees and violates the trust of all members of our intellectual community.  Accordingly, no form of cheating will be tolerated in this course.  All students are expected to conform to the university’s code of conduct at all times.  Any student found cheating will be referred to Academic Advising.  Cheating on any exam will result in an automatic failure of the assignment and other possible repercussions.  For more information, see the guide on “Academic Ethics for Undergraduates” and the Ethics Board web site ( In order to ensure an honest and distraction-free environment during class, all forms of electronic devices (including, but not limited to cell phones, PDAs, iPods, mp3 players, digital cameras, and calculators) are to be turned off or placed on silent.  Use of such devices will result in a zero for participation for the day.


Plagiarism is defined as the act of using the ideas or work of another person or persons as if they were one’s own without giving proper credit to the source.  Such an act is not plagiarism if it is ascertained that the ideas were arrived at through independent reasoning or logic or where the thought or idea is common knowledge.  Acknowledgment of an original author or source must be made through appropriate references, i.e. quotation marks, footnotes, or commentary.  Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to the following: the submission of a work, either in part or in whole completed by another; failure to give credit for ideas, statements, facts or conclusions which rightfully belong to another; failure to use quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it be a paragraph, a sentence, or even a part thereof; close and lengthy paraphrasing of another’s writing, without credit or originality; use of another’s project or programs or part thereof without giving credit.  Submission of a work completed for another class either in a previous or concurrent term as academic dishonesty.  In short, it is not allowed under any circumstances.  If you have any questions about whether something might be constituted, please ask.

Course Schedule

Week 1: The Colonial and Imperial Background

Aug. 30: Introduction: What was the American Revolution?

(E) Jack P. Greene, “The American Revolution,” American Historical Review 105, no. 1 (2000): 93-102.

(E) Gordon S. Wood, Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 3-10.

Sept. 1: The British Colonies, ca. 1750

(E) T. H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present, no. 119 (1988), 73-104.

(E) Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), Ch. 4, 142-173.

Week 2: The Seven Years’ War

Sept. 6: The War in America

Anderson, The War that Made America, 3-16, 25-30, 37-52, 64-73.

(B) Washington’s Letter to Dinwiddie (1754)

(B) “A Memorial, Containing a Summary View of Facts” (1757)

Sept. 8: The Treaty of Paris and the New British Empire

Anderson, The War that Made America, 119-32, 152-62, 173-77, 179-83, 193-230

Week 3: The Beginnings of the Imperial Crisis

Sept. 13: Republicanism

(E) Bernard Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), ch. 3 (55-93)

(E) John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters or Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious, and Other Important Subjects: Four Volumes in Two, ed. Ronald Hamowy (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1995), Letter 18.
Sept. 15: The Stamp Act

(B) Stamp Act newspapers, selections.

NOTE: See Blackboard for reading assignment instructions.

Week 4: From Resistance to Revolution

Sept. 20: Merchants and Trade

(B) John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, Letters I, IV, VIII

(B) Continental Association

Sept. 22: The People and the Tea Party

(E) Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000), vii-xvii, 3-57

Primary Source Analysis due at beginning of class.

Week 5: Independence

Sept. 27: The Rage militaire of 1775

(E) Charles Royster, A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 (Chapel Hill: IEAHC, University of North Carolina Press, 1979), Prologue and Ch. 1 (3-53)

Sept. 29: Declaring Independence

(B) The Declaration of Independence

Paine, Common Sense

Week 6: War for Independence, I

Oct. 4: Fighting for Survival

(E) David Hackett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 7-65.

Oct. 6: Ordinary Soldiers

Martin, Revolutionary Soldier, first half

Week 7: War for Independence, II

Oct. 11: The War Moves South

Martin, Revolutionary Soldier, second half

(E) Jim Piecuch, “Incompatible Allies: Loyalists, Slaves, and Indians in Revolutionary South Carolina,” in War and Society in the American Revolution: Mobilization and Home Fronts, ed. John Resch and Walter Sargent (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007), pp. 191-214.

Oct. 13: Loyalism

(E) Ed Larkin, “What is a Loyalist?” Common-place, 8, no.1 (Oct. 2007).

(E) Harold Gill and George M. Curtis III, eds., A Man Apart: The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774-1781 (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009), Ch. 3, 100-27.

Week 8: The Cost of War

Oct. 18: Yorktown and the Peace of Paris

(B) J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer, Letters 1 and 3

Oct. 20: Establishing New Governments

Berkin, A Brilliant Solution, 1-47

Midterm paper due at beginning of class.

Week 9: Ratification

Oct. 25: Creating the Constitution

Berkin, A Brilliant Solution, 48-115

(B) The Constitution of the United States

Oct. 27: The Ratification Debates

Berkin, A Brilliant Solution, 149-90

(B) Federalist 1, 10, 51

(B) Letters from a Federal Farmer, Letters I, VI

Week 10: The Revolution’s Impact

Nov. 1: Women

(E) Rosemarie Zagarri, “The Rights of Man and Woman in Post-Revolutionary America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 55, no. 2 (April 1998): 203-230.

(E) Ruth Bloch, “The Gendered Meanings of Virtue in Revolutionary America,” Signs 13, no. 1 (Autumn 1987): 37-58.

(B) Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes.”

Nov. 3: Mary Silliman’s War

Screening of Mary Silliman’s War (1994): Class will meet at A/V Center, Eisenhower Library, A Level

Week 11: Race and Rights

Nov. 8: African-Americans

Nash, Race and Revolution, 3-90

Nov. 10: Native Americans

(E) Colin Calloway, “The Peace That Brought no Peace,” in The American Revolution in Indian Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 271-91.

(E) Ruth Wallis Herndon & Ella Wilcox Sekatau, “The Right to a Name,” Ethnohistory 44, no. 3 (Summer 1997): 443-54.

Week 12: The Legacy of the Revolution, I

Nov. 15: The Contest for Memory

(B) Mercy Otis Warren, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, Chs. 1, 2, 9, 29

Nov. 17: The Rights of Man in Old World and New

Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World, ch. 3-4 (45-116)

(B) Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789)

Week 13: The Legacy of the Revolution, II

Nov. 22: Spanish America

Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World, ch. 5 (117-57)

Critical Analysis Paper due at beginning of class.

Week 14: Revolution All Over Again

Nov. 29: The Revolution of 1800

(E) Jeffrey L. Pasley, “The Cheese and the Words: Popular Political Culture and Participatory Democracy in the Early American Republic,” in Jeffrey L. Pasley, Andrew W. Robertson, and David Waldstreicher, eds., Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 31-56.

Dec. 1: Conclusion: The Revolutionary Generation

Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World, ch. 6 (158-74)

(E) Edmund Morgan, “Toward the Republic,” American Slavery, American Freedom (New York: Norton, 1975), 363-387.

Final examination will be due on the date assigned by the registrar.