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The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence
by T.H. Breen
The Marketplace of Revolution offers a boldly innovative interpretation of the mobilization of ordinary Americans on the eve of independence. Breen explores how colonists who came from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds managed to overcome difference and create a common cause capable of galvanizing resistance. In a richly interdisciplinary narrative that weave ...more
Paperback, 380 pages
Published January 20th 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published January 1st 2004)
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Historiography of the American Revolution, 1607-1800
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Breen has an interesting thesis here -- that consumerism helped encourage the American revolution. Essentially, being able to buy mass produced items in various colonies gave the colonists a more united sense of identity, and the fact that luxury goods were so cheap meant that almost anyone could partake in this and feel like part of the same colonial family. Colonists embraced market forces and enjoyed abundance -- and when the coersive acts appeared, it threatened that abundance by making thin ...more
Pretty solid work of new social history. Breen doesn't buy into teleology and inevitable descriptions of the American Revolution (e.g., Gordon Wood, Jack Greene), yet Breen does a good job showing that the mercantilist system unfairly benefitted Great Britain at the colonials' expense. He does a laudable job reconstructing the colonial economy and shows how the colonists grew more empowered through capitalist choices. Breen is also to be commended for making women such a major part of his narrat ...more
As he did with tobacco, Breen examines how consumer behavior, this time across the whole spectrum of American colonists, moved them towards solidarity and protest (albeit quickly forgotten or papered over in a blaze of republican self-sufficiency and simplicity) as they convinced themselves that the British, having seen all their stuff during the War, now were motivated to tax it in an attempt to keep Americans poor and marginalized, when they deserved those shoe buckles, damn it!
I enjoyed this book because it was a very original interpretation of the causes of the American Revolution. Breen argued that consumerism created unity among revolutionaries from all 13 colonies because it gave them a common language through which they could identify with one another. Breen's explanations of the construction of a consumer culture revolving around British goods gives powerful new meaning to the colonists' reaction to the Stamp Act and the subsequent British duties on imported goo ...more
I would say this book was one of the most influential books for me, in terms of changing how i look at history. Whatever the weaknesses of his argument, Breen presents an intriguing new way to look at the history of America. His thesis and arguments that the American revolution was caused through the marketplace really fascinated me. I had NEVER thought of the marketplace or consumerism as influential in political happenings. How could the market possibly influence such a great political event s ...more
This book examines the dilemma of the revolutionary period. How did 13 colonies of various backgrounds and cultures unite against the British? Breen argues that they united over their common consumption of British goods, and that resistance came in the form of boycotts. Really well researched and even funny at times. Though the length really overstays its welcome.
I enjoyed Breen's premise well-enough. This book provided a fascinating and interesting take on the build-up to American independence. However, the dense language and lengthy examples, I feel, bogged the reader down. His thesis was certainly clear enough, if not overstated, to the point that I felt as if I had been beaten over the head with it by the time I finished the book. Nonetheless, still it remains a refreshing interpretaion of American consumer politics and the dawn of the revolution.
This was a really different book about the American Revolution focusing on the economics and trade that affected colonials towards revolution. It was a different take on the whole deal and one that I really enjoyed learning more about. It was really interesting to see just how much our economic marketplace really effects the bigger issues and connects us worldwide.
I got to see T.H. Breen's presentation to another Teaching American History group, and was fascinated by his take on the origins of the American Revolution- consumer goods and market behavior were hugely important, but not just in a materialist sense... I'm looking forward to this alongside Truxes' "Defying Empire."
An interesting thesis although after I discussed this book in class I realized it's a little vague in it's claims. It's basically claiming that the way colonists were able to unite in the lead up to the American revolution is that they found similarities in their consumer culture and a choice of goods.
Jul 11, 2014 Tiffany Blue thompson rated it 3 of 5 stars
meh. the pursuit of happiness = spend money how ever one pleases to be comfortable and pleasured. Not really a new idea, though he claims to be the first to see the importance in the relationship between comsumer spending and the unification of the colonists.
T.H. Breen is the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University. He is also the founding director of the Kaplan Humanities Center and the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern. Breen is a specialist on the American Revolution; he studies the history of early America with a special interest in political thought, material culture, and cultu ...moreMore about T.H. Breen...