Read the Revolution

November 5, 2013

Common Sense

In historian Gordon Wood's book Revolutionary Characters, he proclaims Thomas Paine to be "America's First Public Intellectual." Indeed, Paine's famous pamphlet Common Sense appeared at a pivotal moment for the thirteen colonies--the debate over the value of independence had come to dominate public discussion. Paine's arguments for abolishing British claim on the colonies spread like wildfire, turning the publication into what Dr. Wood calls "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire Revolutionary era." In this excerpt, Dr. Wood parses Common Sense to explain the philosophical origins of Paine's radical thinking.

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October 22, 2013

An Unexpected Gift

In Jodi Daynard’s novel The Midwife’s Revolt, main character Lizzie Boylston inhabits a richly-imagined world of women enduring the tumultuous years of the American Revolution. The book opens with Lizzie confronting the harsh reality of sudden widowhood after the death of her husband in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. By that December, Lizzie is feeling despondent about her self-described “loveless, lonely, barren state.” In this excerpt, she receives a Christmas Day visit from her friend and neighbor Abigail Adams--herself no stranger to the sacrifices of war.

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October 8, 2013

A Confession

More than 200 years after Benedict Arnold's death, his name is still synonymous with treason. However, the details of his path from patriot to conspirator are less familiar. On October 7, 1780, Arnold made a public declaration explaining his reasons for this change in loyalty. The text is included in The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence, a compendium of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and public documents from the era.

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