Ep. 26: Political Violence in Early America, Part II

shays-rebellion-1786-granger-768x645In the second of a two-part discussion, Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers discuss the development of political violence in early America, from the American Revolution to the Civil War.


Through discussion of such events as the rebellions of the 1790s, uprisings of enslaved persons, Native American removal, anti-abolitionist violence, urban riots, Harper’s Ferry, and more, this episode explores conflicting definitions of “political violence,” the roles of class, race, and religion in violence by and against the state, the “contagion of violence,” the differences between individual and crowd-led violence, and the political power of fear and perceptions of potential violence in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


  • What makes violence “political?”
  • Were uprisings of enslaved persons acts of political violence? Was slavery itself a form of political violence?
  • How did sectionalization and race shape political violence in the nineteenth century?
  • How was political violence justified or legitimated in the antebellum period?
  • What role did political violence play in a polity theoretically based on popular sovereignty?


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*Below are some mostly recent reading suggestions relevant to the specific topics discussed in this episode.

Freeman, Joanne. Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War. New York: Hill and Wang, 2018.

Gilje, Paul A. Rioting in America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.

–––––. The Road to Mobocracy: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Gilpin, R. Blakeslee. John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Hogeland, William. The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.

Pfeifer, Michael J. “The Northern United States and the Genesis of Racial Lynching: The Lynching of African Americans in the Civil War Era.” Journal of American History 97, no. 3 (2010): 621-635.

Roberts, Blain and Ethan J. Kytle. Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy. New York: The New Press, 2018.

Weiss, Robert P. “Private Detective Agencies and Labour Discipline in the United States, 1855-1946.” The Historical Journal 29, no. 1 (1986): 87-107.