This semester I am teaching a graduate seminar on the American Revolutionary Era. As I have written before, choosing a book list for a graduate course is not as simple as picking 13 to 15 of your favorite books on a topic. When assigning books, I take several factors into account – inexpensive editions (usually paperbacks); “classics” in the field; new and seemingly important titles (some of which I may not have read yet either); breadth of topical coverage; one of my own books (when relevant); and some extra weight to my research interests in religion and culture.
Here’s my list of books for this semester – some weeks we only read articles and book chapters, such as a week on Native Americans and the Revolution where we’re reading 4 articles instead of a book. I also typically pair an article from a history journal with each book, to make for better coverage and comparative discussions.
Gordon Wood, The American Revolution: A History (Modern Library, 2002)
Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (Knopf, 2011)
Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution rev. ed. (Harvard, 1992)
Thomas S. Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, 2010)
T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (Oxford, 2005)
James Byrd, Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution (Oxford, 2013)Peter Onuf, The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (Virginia, 2007)
Woody Holton, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia (UNC, 1999)
Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Knopf, 2013)
Sarah Knott, Sensibility and the American Revolution (UNC, 2009)
Brendan McConville, The King’s Three Faces: The Rise and Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776 (UNC, 2007)
Jane Landers, Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolutions (Harvard, 2011)
If you are interested in reading more about the American Revolution, but not ready for a graduate reading list, I might suggest that you take a look at Jasanoff (a brilliant examination of the Loyalists); Bailyn (a classic account of the republican ideas about liberty and power that drove the Revolution); and Byrd (a remarkable study of how friends and foes of the Revolution actually used the Bible to support their cause). [I will forbear commenting on God of Liberty!] Wood is an excellent short overview, but you should also read his celebrated book The Radicalism of the American Revolution.
Of course, one of my great pleasures in teaching such a course is interacting with our fabulous cohort of Master’s and Ph.D. students at Baylor, who always help me understand the texts better than I could have on my own.
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