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The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America
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The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  317 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
The Founding Fathers may have lead the charge, but the energy to raise the revolt that culminated in the victory of the American Revolution emerged from all classes and races of American society. The Unknown American Revolution plunges us into the swirl of ideology, grievance, outrage, and hope that animated the Revolutionary decades.

It tells of the efforts of a wide varie
Hardcover, First Edition, 512 pages
Published June 23rd 2005 by Viking Penguin
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Aug 25, 2013 Stephen rated it it was amazing
For those who may not know, New Historicism is a field of research that bloomed in the 1980s, hot on the heels of feminism, ethnic studies, social psychology, and other “new” academic fields that sought to overturn the old standards of scholarship. There’s a nice description here:

I was first introduced to Dr. Nash in a graduate-level history course on slavery in the Americas, and with a Master’s in English Studies, New Historicism fit nicely with my moral
Mar 01, 2011 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
If you read only one book on the American Revolution (I'd go so far as to say 'only one book on American history') make it this one.

I borrowed this from the library to take on vacation because my family history searches made me curious to know more about this period than I did. Much of the history we were taught about this period was "great men" and "great battles", accompanied by examining hagiographic paintings made either at the time (Benjamin Rush) or later, in the 19th Century. In a way, n
Nov 05, 2009 Nathan rated it it was ok
In this boldly revisionist history, Nash recasts the American Revolution as a populist movement born of private citizens, working-class people and popular sentiment. As a corrective to the elite image of the affair as the business of aristocratic founding philosophers, this notion is a necessary piece of the puzzle and illuminating counter-perspective to history as usual. As a cohesive thesis to a substantive study, I found it a bit lacking. That the Revolution was a broadly populist affair is p ...more
Sep 15, 2007 Brad rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on the American Revolution in recent years. Gary Nash has always been one of my favorite historians. You can almost guarantee that any book he writes will be groundbreaking. In this book, Nash takes a look at the American Revolution from the perspective of those that are often forgotten (Blacks, women, Native Americans, etc). It is an excellent view of the American Revolution from a perspective other than the traditional Founding Fathers. A must read for any fan of early Am ...more
Ed Allen
Jul 01, 2012 Ed Allen rated it really liked it
This book helps bring to life the complexity and strife of the colonies , patriots and founding fathers. Behind the myth of united front of the founding fathers, there were the familiar currents of conflict, greed, multi-factionalism, real estate scams, and pettiness that we commonly see today.

Those so inclined will see the "tea party" fighting back against an oppressive hi tax regime, and others will see the common man "leveling" the mansions of the greedy oligarch and "occupying" their misgot
Incoherent and tiresome. The Unknown American Revolution is a jumble of vignettes designed to illustrate a paper-thin thesis that couples a cliché (most of the people caught up in the American Revolution were not elite white men) with an anachronism (these non-elite-white-men wanted radical democratic change). Nash culls stories of women, nonwhites, farmers, and workers from secondary sources -- a worthwhile endeavor, I suppose -- but simply piles them in narrative fragments instead of conductin ...more
Lois Plale
Jan 21, 2013 Lois Plale rated it it was amazing
Great book for history buffs. Tells how it was actually the "little people" who fought the Revolutionary War - the farmers, Indians, African-americans, women, the poor - and how each one believed that the result of the war would help their own plight.
Josh Maddox
Oct 14, 2013 Josh Maddox rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Gary Nash’s 2006 book “The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America” might have been better titled “Short Stories of the Oppressed Proletariat.” Nash sets out to overturn the traditional narrative of the American Revolution, in which elite white males led, guided, and directed the lower class politically, philosophically, and governmentally. In some ways, Nash accomplishes his goal. By showing the actions of blacks, lower classes, Indians, and ...more
Mathew Powers
I do not hate this book nor do I denounce Nash's thesis (that the American Revolution arose from the "bottom up" and was as much about home rule as who might rule at home). I am fine with his central premise, although I do not totally agree. Clearly, Nash appears adamant about reminding the reader that the Founding Fathers were not "all that". That's ok -- but he swings so far on the pendulum that they almost come across as unwilling agents within the story and serve as nothing but reactionary a ...more
Michael Hattem
Jul 21, 2010 Michael Hattem rated it liked it
Shelves: early-america
As a collection of stories about marginalized groups during the American Revolution, Nash's book is informative and could be even enlightening to a general reader. For the more academic reader, Nash's book includes no new research. Nash obviously aims the book for the general audience as he writes in the preface that he hopes the book will prove an "antidote to historical amnesia." Yet, all the things Nash discusses are drawn from the work of other historians over the last 30+ years. Indians, wo ...more
Sep 27, 2009 Lindy rated it really liked it
Nash examines often-overlooked parts of the American Revolution to reconstruct a "democratic" history that avoids the grand narrative styles of other historians such as Gordon Wood, and presents an every man's story of the Revolution. The introduction, wherein Nash reacts to a number of historical myths that have cropped up over the roughly two centuries since the Revolution, presents a new and enlightening aspect of the Revolution that Nash feels gets lost under the gloss of the Founding Father ...more
Mar 10, 2016 A.J. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Nash focuses his history of the American Revolution not on the Founding Fathers handed to us by the mainstream historic memory, but instead on the middle and bottom of American colonial society. Why did the rock farmer in Connecticut or the cooper in North Carolina decide to make society anew? Who were the soldiers that Washington had to fight (and fight with)? Why did the Native Americans side with the British? Nash explores these questions in detail and provides a fresh look at what else was g ...more
Steve Clason
Jul 27, 2010 Steve Clason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Nash's retelling of the American Revolution focuses on the disenfanchised: women, Negroes (slave and free), Native Americans, and men of modest means--mariners, artisans, small merchants, farmers. He relates these people's stories to the received narrative to describe how the people that won the war may have lost the revolution, as a real possibility existed at the time for the abolition of slavery, enhancement of the rights of women (though probably not full citizenship), honorable treatment of ...more
Sep 14, 2014 Judy rated it really liked it
Gary B. Nash takes a fresh look at the American Revoution by focusing on the forgotten participants of the Revolution and by examing the impact of patriots from every class and race in American society. He includes stories of ministers preaching milennial visions, slaves, women, and Native Americans who all had their individual reasons for supporting the quest for independence for the English colonies. Nash demonstrates that the new American nation was founded on a foundation of a wide variety o ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing
This book is really interesting - instead of being just a history of the founding fathers, it explains what was going on at every level of society, what life was like for soldiers, workers, farmers, artisans, and especially slave, free blacks, Indians, and women. And the auther keeps hatin' on John Adams, who at all times opposed extending the right to vote to anyone but white property owners. He didn't just oppose voting for blacks and women, but also for shoemakers, teachers, brewers, etc.: "A ...more
Jul 30, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
This is not the first book you should read on the movement for American independence, but provides a detailed, edgy corrective to getting carried away with revolutionary myths. Nash shows how revolutionary leaders throughout this period sought to manage, and in some cases betrayed, the poor, nonwhite and women inspired by the revolutionary rhetoric. Shameful treatment of native populations is not overlooked.
This book focuses on the role that African Americans, Native Americans, and common, poor laborers had in making the American Revolution successful. It had some very interesting information and portions were wonderful, but it dragged in parts to the point where I alternated between it and another book to keep myself reading it. Also, it did not seem as unbiased and fair as some other books I've read. The author's political views seemed to take precedence in how things were presented.
Andee Nero
Mar 25, 2016 Andee Nero rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I felt like this was a very necessary book but I thought that the loose chronological organization was a poor choice. I think the ideas in the book would come across better thematically. I did like that it reminded me of Lies My Teacher Taught Me a little bit. I think there should be greater emphasis on the actual motivations of the founders, the revolutionary experiences of nonelites and the general disorder that occurred in the US government while the revolution was still occurring.
Mark Singer
Unlike most of the books I have read on the American Revolution, this is a "bottoms up" history. The narrative follows groups usually left out of textbooks such as women, native Americans, African-Americans (both slave and free), and poor whites.
Nash makes compelling narrative, and emphasizes the chaotic nature of the Revolution.
I would recommend thsi to anyone who wnats to know more about this period.
Jane Walker
Dec 11, 2013 Jane Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
To British readers like me it's the "American War of Independence" and we know little about it except from the British point of view. Similarly, the Americans have little interest in the British perspective.
Nash's book, therefore, is an interesting slant on the subject. He tells the story through the struggles of the poor, the slaves and the "Indians" who fought for emancipation and democracy in the course of the revolution.
Nov 09, 2016 Byron rated it liked it
This book presents an alternative lens to view the lead up to and events during the American Revolution. While dense with small vignettes, these provide great color about what day to day events occurred that in aggregate are what folks learn in school, as well as poking holes in many common conceptions about people and events.
Feb 21, 2013 Colleen rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I appreciate the detail Nash included in the work, and I thought the greater context of the Revolution was helpful. I did however, have a hard time following his train of thought and thought that his points were uneven at times. The work did not have a good sense of flow; I thought that the reader had to jump around at some points.
Apr 15, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Wow, this guy goes into amazing detail about the pulse of the nation as it's about to start a revolution. He does a great job of setting the tone and looking at the most unlikely characters. I'm sure Washington, Adams, and Jefferson will show up in here eventually, but for now its all about the people. Can't wait to see how it turns out. ;-P
Spencer Moffatt
Jan 08, 2008 Spencer Moffatt rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all
Looking deep into the pages of American History reveals those who are left out of the history books. This book opens up how broad and diverse America was during the Revolution beyond patriarchs such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc. Read and fully become aware of those who dreamed and died for true liberty.
Pamela Lloyd
Aug 20, 2008 Pamela Lloyd marked it as to-read
I'm learning a lot about the revolutionary activities that led up to the American Revolution. The stuff we learned in school was so tame compared to much of what this book covers.
Dec 03, 2009 Kim marked it as to-read
Recommended by Language Hat as the "best history book I've read in a long time", recommended "to anyone who wants to understand the Revolution in anything other than the usual triumphalist terms."
jeannie kohl
Jul 29, 2010 jeannie kohl is currently reading it
So far so good. A series of short, juicy, biographical vignettes. Colorful, narrative stuff. Very informative about time and place.
Jun 29, 2008 Leslie rated it really liked it
Nash's description of what the revolution meant to "ordinary Americans" is well-written and engrossing. It moves the narrative of the Revolution beyond the "Great Men" story we are taught in school.
Sep 17, 2013 Marc rated it liked it
While the content is nowhere near as unknown as the title implies, this is still a valuable book on American colonial history.
Jul 28, 2008 Breezy rated it liked it
Ok, I didn't actually finish the book. But what I did read, I enjoyed. HD's questions were just too much for me. It made reading the book more of a chore then enjoyable.
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Gary B. Nash received his B. A. from Princeton University in 1955 and his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1964. He earned the position of Director of the National Center for History in the Schools at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he taught colonial and revolutionary American history since 1974. Nash has been the Director of the National Center for History in the Schools sinc 1994 and co ...more
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