This lecture focuses on the best-selling pamphlet of the American Revolution: Thomas Paine's Common Sense, discussing Paine's life and the events that led him to write his pamphlet. Published in January of 1776, it condemned monarchy as a bad form of government, and urged the colonies to declare independence and establish their own form of republican government. Its incendiary language and simple format made it popular throughout the colonies, helping to radicalize many Americans and pushing them to seriously consider the idea of declaring independence from Britain.
Paine, Common Sense
Bailyn, Faces of Revolution, chapter 4
Raphael, A People's History of the American Revolution, chapter 4
Brown, Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, pp. 229-30, 233-38, 247-54
The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring then the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, "The Revolution was in the Minds of the people... before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington"--and it continued long past America's victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.