The Radicalism Of The American Revolution Summary

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Gordon S. Wood’s Pulitzer prize winning book is densely packed and thought-provoking. However, if your eyes are not quite as robust as perhaps they once were, you might want to consider an alternative to the paper-back edition. The font is uncomfortably small and as tightly packed as the author’s prose. Thus 370 pages seemed to take as long to work through as most books twice that length. That being said, while the author bears responsibility for his somewhat dry style, the publisher, Vintage, might have splurged on a few more pages and a slightly larger font. That sums up the negative criticism of an otherwise excellent book. Now on to the review proper. The Radicalism of the American Revolution overturns the common belief that…show more content…
By setting the stage and laying out specifics as he did, the author provides a backdrop against which the reader may compare and contrast pre and post revolutionary American society, and understand the magnitude of the change it ushered in. Wood does a thorough job of explaining how patriarchal society worked and how social mores were reflected at all levels, from the dominance of the father in families to that of the king in the monarchy. He explains the dramatic and unforeseen shifts in society that were mirrored by changes in government. It’s Wood’s contention that society and government were interwoven prior to the American Revolution. Modern readers of Patrick O’Brian get a sense of this intermingling of private and governmental concerns in the way Captain Aubrey and other Post Captains were expected to furnish their own ship-board larders, and how O’Brian’s hero even buys much of his own gun powder. Similarly, in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s series, that author refers to the practice of buying officer commissions. These and other similar details make more sense after reading Wood’s book. Because of the sacrifices and patronage of the upper classes, the lower classes were expected to defer to their betters, and to know their…show more content…
In the end, the notion of disinterested public service gave way to a realization that men like Washington were few and far between. Instead, the merits of hard work and being self-made began to take precedence. This was incorporated even in political life. Self interest was no longer taboo. Politicians were workmen worthy of their hire. However, even if altruistic disinterest was discarded as impractical, the concept of virtue was democratized. The new government of the early 19th century carried forward the belief that “Without virtue and self sacrifice the republic would fall apart.” The second great awakening in the first half of the 19th century sought to establish morality on a broad scale. Being good was no longer the special province of the aristocracy. Good governance depended upon it. Wood

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