Hist e-1607. The American Revolution Tuesday, 7: 40 to 9: 40 pm Harvard Hall 104 Fall Term 2014



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HIST E-1607. The American Revolution

Tuesday, 7:40 to 9:40 pm Harvard Hall 104 Fall Term 2014






Robert J. Allison

Professor and Chair of History, Suffolk University.

73 Tremont Street, 10th Floor, Boston (One block from Park Street Station)

rallison@suffolk.edu 617 573 8510

What caused the American Revolution? What were the Revolution's consequences? Who was responsible? We examine the tumultuous events in British North America from 1760 to 1775, the years of war, and the aftermath of the war in the creation of the United States. We focus on the tremendous political, social, cultural, and economic changes the Revolution sparked, the impact of warfare, and the international repercussions in the birth of the United States.

Robert Allison, The American Revolution: A Concise History (Oxford) 9780195312959

Bernard Bailyn, Faces of Revolution (Vintage) 9780679736239

Carol Berkin, Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

(Knopf Doubleday) 9781400075324

Colin Calloway, American Revolution in Indian Country (Cambridge)

978 0521475693

David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing (Oxford) 9780195181593

William Fowler, American Crisis (Walker & Co.) 9780802717061

Pauline Maier, American Scripture (Vintage) 9780679779086

Gary B. Nash, The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution

(Harvard) 9780674021938

Thomas Paine, Common Sense (Dover) 9780486296029

Background to the Revolution

September 2

Reading: Allison, Chapter 1

Berkin, Chapter 1, “The Easy Task of Obeying.”



September 9

Reading: Allison, Chapter 2

Bailyn, Chapter on John Adams

Calloway, Prologue and Chapter 1.

September 16

Reading: Bailyn, Chapter on Thomas Hutchinson

Berkin, Chapter 2, “They Say it is Tea that Caused it.”



War and Independence

September 23

First Assignment Due

Reading: Maier, American Scripture

Allison, Chapter 3

Bailyn, Chapter on Thomas Paine

September 30

Reading: Nash, Chapter 1, “The Black Americans Revolution.”

Berkin, Chapter 8, “The Day of Jubilee is come.”



October 7

Reading: Allison, Chapter 4

Reading: Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

Over the next weeks, read Berkin Chapters 3-5, 7, 9

And Calloway, Chapters 1-9

October 14

October 21

Second Paper Due

Reading: Fowler, American Crisis

Allison, Chapter 5

Calloway, Chapter 10, “A Peace that Brought no Peace.”

The New Nation

October 28

Reading: Allison, Chapter 4

Nash, Chapter 2, “Could Slavery have been Abolished?”



November 4 (don’t forget to vote!)

Reading: Berkin, Chapter 6, “A Journey A Crosse ye Wilderness.”

November 11

The Revolution of 1800

November 18

Third Assignment Due

Reading: Nash, Chapter 3, “Race and Citizenship in the Early Republic.”

November 24

December 2

Remembering the Revolution

December 9

Reading: Berkin, “There is no sex in soul.”

Allison, Chapter 6



December 16: No class; Final Paper Due.

Written Work


Historians evaluate evidence. This semester you will also evaluate evidence. The two kinds of sources historians use are primary and secondary. Primary sources are materials created by people who actually experienced an event—diaries, letters, contemporary newspapers. Historians use these primary sources to create secondary sources—scholarly accounts or analyses of what happened, based on the testimony or evidence left behind by participants. All of the books on our reading list are secondary sources, except one—Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is a primary source.

Your assignments:

Historical Site Evaluation.

You will visit an historical site associated with the American Revolution, and write a 3-5 page evaluation. What story does the site tell? How does it tell the story? How effective is it? What recommendations would you make to improve it?



Note: If you are a Distance student, and not close enough to a Revolutionary war site to do this assignment, you may do TWO of any of the following assignments. But check with me first—you might be surprised at the reach of the American Revolution.

Paper Due: September 23

Critique of an Historical Web-site.

You will find a web-site presenting some aspect of the American Revolution, and evaluate it in a 3-5 page essay. What information does it present? Does it present primary documents or is it a secondary source? What is its point of view? Is it designed for specialists, tourists, students, ideologues? How effective is it in what it tries to do? How reliable is the information or material it presents? Who maintains it? Who pays for it? These are the questions to consider in your evaluation.



Paper Due: October 21

Secondary Source Assignment.

You will read a secondary source—one of the books on our reading list, or another book—and critique it. What is the book’s argument? How successful is the author in making the case? What evidence does the author use? You will write a critique (3-5 pages) of the book, using the format of a scholarly book review.



Due: November 18

Primary Source Assignment.

You will use a primary source—newspapers, available on-line through the Boston Public Library, or available on microtext at the Boston Public Library, or a hard-copy of a newspaper available either at the BPL or the MHS—or diaries or papers, also available either on-line or at the MHS, or records available at the State Archives. Read through a chunk of the material—if it is a newspaper, read at least one month’s worth of issues; letters or a diary, read a month’s worth. You will write a brief paper (5-8 pages) explaining what you found.



Due: December 16

Grade Breakdown:

Each Paper = 25% of grade.



Grading Criteria

A paper in the “A” range must be interesting and original. It will

  • adhere to the conventions of the discipline,

    • with properly formatted foot-notes or end-notes,

    • paragraphs that develop an overall argument,

    • which has been introduced clearly in the opening paragraph.

  • It will rely on relevant sources,

    • which are properly cited,

    • and focus on the issue at hand.

  • It will explain the quotes and other material used.

  • The writer will give clear evidence of not only understanding the material, but engaging with it.

  • Both the writer and the reader will be interested in the outcome.

  • Typographical errors or grammatical lapses will be minimal, suggesting careful proof-reading before submission; more than a few such errors will push even the most remarkable paper to the B range.


A paper in the B range will be solidly-researched and clearly written.

  • It must adhere to the conventions of the discipline

    • with properly-formatted foot-notes or end-notes.

  • It will show a solid understanding of the material.

  • It will be based clearly on the sources, which are cited.

  • A “B” paper is always good.

  • The writing will be clear,

    • though some paragraphs may be too long or too short;

    • it might have stylistic or editorial glitches.

    • These are outweighed by its merits.

A paper in the C Range shows an effort to understand the topic at hand.

  • The author may not have a full grasp of all the issues, but will have presented material related to some question or issue.

  • Typically the paper will have some problems—

    • not enough sources,

    • not enough thought,

      • poor writing

      • skimpy research.

    • Editorial, or typographical or grammatical errors.

The paper will attempt to convey an idea or ideas, but these problems will weigh it down and prevent it from succeeding.

A paper in the D range has significant editorial or grammatical errors.

  • It might fail to use sources adequately, showing little time or care taken in preparation.

  • The author will not give sufficient evidence of thought or research.

  • Though the paper may have some interesting or perceptible point, it will not be developed sufficiently.

An F paper will be lacking in thought, care, judgment; typically it shows little time taken by the author, and it wastes the time of the reader. If a paper is plagiarized, the author will receive an F for the semester.

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense; if you are unfamiliar with what constitutes plagiarism (i.e., appropriating someone else’s ideas and passing it off as your own) you should consult “Writing with Sources,” a guide produced by Harvard’s Expository Writing Program. The appropriate guidelines can be found in http://www.extension.harvard.edu/resources/career-academic-resource-center/plagiarism-proper-use-sources

Penalties for plagiarism, as determined by Suffolk University, may extend to expulsion. In my class you will receive a failing grade for the semester.


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