Radicalism of the American Revolution

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Precis and Source Analysis of The Radicalism of the American Revolution By
Charlie Hwang

History of the Americas I
Dr. Drouin
Word Count:
Gordon S. Wood’s Radicalism of the American Revolution challenges historian’s views regarding the nature of the American Revolution. The Radicalism of the American Revolution is an academic monograph written in 1991 in the midst of age long belief that American Revolution was not radical. The Radicalism of the American Revolution reevaluates the American Revolution in a unique angle to highlight its historical significance the impacts it made on the American society. Wood argues that the American Revolution was radical by outlining how historians misinterpret the American Revolution through an incorrect definition of the word “radical”. One significant value to Wood’s monograph is his scope in which he specifically focuses on the social changes of the American Revolution. However, his lack of primary sources to support his argument limits the validity of his work.

Wood first argues that historians often misinterpret the American Revolution in terms of its radicalism. As evidence provides ways in which most historians view the American Revolution. Wood gives a specific quote from Hannah Arendt that states that other historians seek to evaluate the American Revolution in light of the French Revolution in the terms of radicalism (Wood 1). Such evidence highlights the misinterpretation of the American Revolution by many historians as they judge its radicalism by the physical violence or conflict. Wood explains that this view on radicalism is erroneous and should be measured in the terms of social changes.

Wood’s second argument is that the word “radical” is incorrectly used by most historians. In other words, he argues that the word “radical” should be defined by the “amount of social change that actually took place” (Wood 2). As evidence Wood looks to the dramatic and indeed radical impacts of the social change of the...
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