History | Age of Democratic Revolutions
A300 | 28489 | Knott


We all know the story of the American Revolution: the overthrow of
British imperial power and the birth of a new nation founded on
liberty and equality. This new seminar-style course asks a simple
question: how does our view of the American Revolution change when
we consider it in wider context? That is, what happens when we place
the American Revolution next to the other revolutions of the age, in
France and in Haiti? We will pursue this question across a range of
different themes, from how revolutionaries imagined new governments
to replace age-old monarchy, to dilemmas of slavery and promises of
emancipation, to the rights of woman, to the significance of
religion and culture, to the varied challenges of building new
nations. We will meet rebelling slaves, inspiring political
thinkers, sharp-tongued feminists, fallen monarchs and the "mob".

No prior knowledge is assumed. Readings will be a blend of secondary
sources, such asó"The American Revolution: A History," by Gordon S.
Wood, and primary sources (produced by people in the past) such as
declarations of rights and images of liberty. Evaluation will be
based on in-class work and participation, and a series of short
papers. This course is, ultimately, an experiment. Since R.R. Palmer
wrote his "Age of Democratic Revolutions" some fifty years ago, no
sustained comparison of the late 18th century revolutions has been
attempted. We will be putting together our own comparisons, asking
our own questions and coming up with our own conclusions.