Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and Liz Covart discuss the coming of the Revolution, including both its long-term origins and short-term causes, and debate the importance of imperial identity, popular participation, ideas and ideology, and the character of the resistance movement.
What do we mean when we say the “coming of the Revolution?” What were the Revolution’s origins and its causes? How far back can we go in looking for the former and how close to 1776 can we go in looking for the latter? Historians have debated these questions since the war itself was still raging. At the heart of this debate is the question: How did the colonies get from 1763 to independence in 1776 in only thirteen years? That is to ask, how did the political break between the colonies and the mother country happen so quickly after almost two centuries of imperial ties. In the twentieth century, historians have offered interpretations about the causes of the Revolution that focus on ideas, economics, and politics. But, following a burst of work on the questions of the coming of the Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, subsequent generations of historians have largely abandoned the question, turning their attentions instead toward the consequences of the Revolution. With so much time gone by, however, perhaps it is time for historians to reconsider the questions of the origins and causes of the American Revolution once again.
- What is the difference between the “origins” and “causes” of the Revolution?
- What is the interrelationship between them?
- How far back in time can we go when seeking the origins of the Revolution?
- When did the Revolution begin?
- What role did “imperial identity” play in the origins and causes of the Revolution?
- How important was the role of political institutions in the causes of the Revolution?
- Why did colonists believe they were entitled to autonomy within the British Empire?
- When was independence actually possible?
Liz Covart is an independent historian and host of the “Ben Franklin’s World” podcast. She received her PhD from the University of California at Davis, where her dissertation focused on revolutionary Albany. Liz blogs at Uncommonplace Book and writes for a number of online history websites and publications. She also offers social media consulting services for writers.
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“Coming of the American Revolution,” Massachusetts Historical Society. [NB: An interactive website with a highly curated collection of documents relating to each phase of the imperial crisis.]
“The Stamp Act, 22 March 1765,” Avalon Project.
“Boston Non-Importation Agreement, August 1, 1768,” Avalon Project.
“Association of the Sons of Liberty in New York; December 15, 1773,” Avalon Project.
“The Association of the Virginia Convention; August 1-6, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“The Boston Port Act : March 31, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“Charleston Non-Importation Agreement; July 22, 1769,” Avalon Project.
“The Charlotte Town Resolves; May 31, 1775,” Avalon Project.
“Circular Letter of the Boston Committee of Correspondence; May 13, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“Circular Letter to the Governors in America; April 21, 1768,” Avalon Project.
“Connecticut Resolutions on the Stamp Act: December 10, 1765,” Avalon Project.
“The Currency Act; April 19, 1764,” Avalon Project.
“Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms : July 6, 1775,” Avalon Project.
“The Declaratory Act; March 18, 1766,” Avalon Project.
“The Massachusetts Government Act; May 20, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“The Mecklenburgh Resolutions : May 20, 1775,” Avalon Project.
“New York Merchants Non-importation Agreement; October 31, 1765,” Avalon Project.
“Patrick Henry – Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death; March 23, 1775,” Avalon Project.
“The Philadelphia Resolutions; October 16, 1773,” Avalon Project.
“Proceedings of Farmington, Connecticut, on the Boston Port Act; May 19, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“Proceedings of the Inhabitants of Philadelphia; June 18, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“The Quartering Act; May 15, 1765,” Avalon Project.
“The Quartering Act; June 2, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“The Quebec Act: October 7, 1774,” Avalon Project.
“Resolutions of the Boston Town Meeting; September 13, 1768,” Avalon Project.
“Resolutions of the Congress of October 19, 1765,” Avalon Project.
“Resolutions of the Provincial Congress of Virginia; March 23, 1775,” Avalon Project.
“Resolves of the Pennsylvania Assembly on the Stamp Act, September 21, 1765,” Avalon Project.
“The Royal Proclamation – October 7, 1763,” Avalon Project.
“The Sugar Act; September 29, 1764,” Avalon Project.
“The Townshend Act, November 20, 1767,” Avalon Project.
“Virginia Declaration of Rights; June 12, 1776,” Avalon Project.