evaluate the extent to which the American Revolution

Final Paper Writing Prompt HIST 32200: The Age of the American Revolution – Final Paper Writing Prompt – Spring


Historians have long debated the nature and significance of the American Revolution. Some have argued that the years between 1763 and 1789 marked a turning point, not only in American history, but in human history as well. Thirteen of Britain’s mainland North American colonies declared their independence from empire and monarchy and set out on an experiment in freedom, equality, and republican government. The result of this experiment – the United States of America – was a beacon of liberty, democracy, and opportunity throughout the world, and eventually rose to become one of the greatest powers on earth. To these triumphalist scholars, the seeds of American greatness were planted in 1776.

More recently, scholars have found less to celebrate in the American Revolution. While it may have benefitted white men, these scholars point out, the revolution held out little promise for women, Native Americans, or enslaved and free people of color. Indeed, the political liberty of independent republican men often ​relied on​ the continuation of domestic patriarchy, the expropriation of indigenous peoples, and the enslavement and marginalization of hundreds of thousands of African-descended men and women. The continuation of these forms of unfreedom, these scholars argue, provides strong evidence that, while it may have been transformative for some, American independence was not truly revolutionary.

Task:​ Your assignment is to enter into this scholarly debate, and evaluate the extent to which the American Revolution was truly revolutionary. Each student will select ONE of the themes we have studied this semester – gender and domestic patriarchy; Native American history; slavery and race – and analyze the extent to which the American Revolution caused meaningful changes in political, social, economic, and/or cultural life for your chosen group. To fully address this question, responses must go beyond merely describing what happened to a particular group, and use specific evidence from our shared readings to ​explain why​ certain changes occurred while others did not, and discuss ​how​ these changes are related to broader themes, ideas, or events in the history of the revolution.

Format:​ Papers should be ​4-7 pages​ long, with a clear introduction and conclusion that lay out a thesis statement directly addressing the task above. All papers must use relevant primary and secondary source material from the syllabus to support their argument, and all sources must be appropriately cited with Chicago style footnotes. (While you may consult as many sources as you like in the paper, you ​MUST​ use ​at least FIVE ​primary source documents.) Please use standard formatting for academic writing (12 pt. font; double spaced; 1” margins; heading with name, class, and date).

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