The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Paperback

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


In this 25th anniversary edition, Bailyn has added a substantial essay, "Fulfillment", as a Postscript to the original text.

In it he discusses the intense, nation-wide debate on the ratification of the constitution, stressing the continuities between that struggle over the foundations of the national government and the original principles of the Revolution.

This study of the persistence of the nation's ideological origins adds a new dimension to the book and projects its meaning forward into vital present concerns.

Bailyn is author of "The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson" which won the National Book Award and "Voyagers to the West" which won the Pulitzer Prize for History.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: History of the Americas
  • ISBN: 9780674443020



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

This is a great exploration into how the thinking of the founding fathers and those around them influenced and shaped the revolution.

Review by

A classic examination of the Revolution and its causes, drawing largely on the pamphlet literature from the pre-Revolutionary period and recognizing the key influences of English Whig rhetoric.

Review by

Professor Bailyn's work had a tremendous impact on me. I read him for the first time as I began my work for a Master's in History. His work established the benchmark.

Review by

The book is well written, original, and a classic. It could only be 5 stars. Prior to Bailyn's groundbreaking work, Charles Beard's economic theory of the American Revolution was the standard. With Bailyn, the emphasis became the ideology behind the revolution. This book, then, explores the literature, the sources of the ideas, and the transformations that the fundamental ideas of government were undergoing at the time of the revolution.Generallly, I hate highlighting or making notes in books. In the case of this book, I bought a second copy so I could highlight and still read the clean copy. I still have both, one upstairs and one downstairs that I use for references when I'm reading about the ideology of the American Revolution.This book won a Pullitzer Prize and the Bankroft award.

Review by

The road to the writing of this Pulitzer Prize winning book began when Bailyn was asked to prepare a collection of pamphlets of the American Revolutionary War era. In doing so he began to see connections, common sources, and particularly how the American colonial experience transformed a strand of British libertarian opposition thought into a uniquely American ideology that caused an intellectual revolution as to the basis for sovereignty, rights and representation and consent that led not only to the colonies declaring independence but shaped our constitution and led to the undermining of slavery, the disestablishment of religion and an entirely new and radical social relationship. I have my doubts that a general readership would find this book interesting: although I sure did. An ordinary reader not grounded in this period might find this rather dry reading. But for someone who has enough interest in American political thought this is illuminating. I have to concur with the <i>New York Times</i> reviewer who that one "cannot claim to understand the American Revolution without reading this book." Or at least, it would be much harder: you'd have to undertake the same study Bailyn did and read thousands of 18th century pamphlets--which would be formidable enough. The book is logically organized and lucidly written and I found that even for someone like myself who thought I knew a lot about the founding, who has read Thomas Paine's <i>Common Sense</i> and Thomas Jefferson's <i>Declaration of Independence</i> and Hamilton, Madison and Jay's <i>Federalist Papers</i> there are some surprises. I took for granted the influence of Enlightenment thinkers such as Locke, it's not really surprising to learn that a tradition of covenant theology was one strand of thinking nor classical Latin works of or about the Roman republic such as by Cicero, Livy and Tacitus. It was a bit surprising to learn the British common law tradition had a large part in this political thinking--but particularly surprising was learning the role of relatively obscure opposition Whig writers. And Bailyn also examines how the practical experience of colonial government, from charters to town halls to provincial legislatures shaped the way the founders saw and used this legacy to create a new kind of government. If you want to go deeper into the foundation of American political thought, I'd say this book is invaluable.

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