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The American Revolution: A History (Modern Library Chronicles #9)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,206 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews

“An elegant synthesis done by the leading scholar in the field, which nicely integrates the work on the American Revolution over the last three decades but never loses contact with the older, classic questions that we have been arguing about for over two hundred years.”—Joseph J. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers

A magnificent account of the revol
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 19th 2003 by Modern Library (first published January 1st 2002)
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This is a short book. It isn't about the Revolutionary War (although the war is part of it). It's about all the revolutions in government, economics, culture, and society that we ordinary folk clump together and misinterpret when we refer to the American Revolution. The Revolution was anything but a military revolution; in fact, it was a revolution in just about everything but that. And the author does a fantastic job of revealing just how revolutionary the Revolution was.

It's a quick read and
Oct 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: U.S. citizens - bone up on your history!
Shelves: unfinished, own
After my undergraduate history degree focusing on the American Revolution, this book is a nice overview now that I am 3 years out of college. It's an easy read without too many names and dates to make your eyes glaze over. He does lean heavily towards Ben Franklin, but that is only natural as he has done biographies on the man. Rather than get caught up in the details of the Revolution, the reader sees the big picture and how the events relate to one another.
Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Professor Wood, considered by many to be one of the better historians of the American Revolution, has written perhaps the classic summary of the conflict that founded one nation,ended the first empire of another and has changed the world. What sets this book, at less than a 170 pages, is its conciseness and ability to sum up many and large complicated issues well.

Wood does a wonderful job if explaining how a struggle between 13 of Britain's 21 North American colonies was virtually inevitable due
Nick Smith
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At a little less than 170 pages, this volume on The American Revolution is perfect for any amateur historian. Not only does it describe the calamitous war which broke out first at Lexington and Concord, but it also painstakingly details the contentious array of events which impelled the American people to their separation with Great Britain. Drawing on a number of decades as a professor of history, Wood is able to be what he is: an expert on the Revolutionary period. Wood then goes on to describ ...more
James Smith
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great primer for someone whose high school education took place in Canada; probably a good refresher for others. Succinct overview from pre-Revolutionary background to ratification of the Constitution by a scholar who wrote one of the definitive histories. I learned more than I care to admit. ;-)
Oct 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, history
I was looking for a brief overview of the American Revolution, and I found it. It is hard to believe that so much information and insight can be found in just 165 pages.

Gordon S. Wood's The American Revolution: A History summarizes the events surrounding the revolution, and places them in a context that you do not get in K-12 education. Many of the details are not given. For example, why a certain battle was not won, etc. Those are details for other books. What I found here was the societal and
Brian Willis
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This the deepest concise version of the American Revolution out there, not simply a rehashing of the facts but rather a profound analysis of the reasons and the causes and the effects of the colonial rebellion.

If you ask the person on the street, they will most likely respond with the shallowest reasons for the rebellion: "freedom", "tyranny", and the like. These terms betray a profound misunderstanding of the revolution: what exactly were loyal English subjects rebelling against? It turns out,
Jenni Lithgow
Nov 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
I should preface this review by saying, the only history books I read are biographies. I find them completely absorbing, so I thought I'd enjoy some "overall history" books. But, either history books just aren't as great as biographies, or this book was sort of total crap.

More specifically. . .

I felt like it was way too much information crammed in to way too short of a volume (only 166 pages). Clearly, the goal here was to give a brief overview, but instead of being a scratch-the-surface sort of
Greg Brown
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly compact general survey of the American Revolution, starting with the factors that led up to it and ending with the ratification of the constitution. Speaking as someone whose elementary, middle, and high schools covered it mostly on a military and mythic level - with the historiography stalled out somewhere in the 19th century - the book did an amazing job of illustrating the true variety of causes and contexts that this seminal event held. I know most readers come at this subject ...more
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful short introduction/summary/review (depending on your level of history reading) of the Revolutionary period in America. The book is more than the title promises. It doesn't just outline the war. In fact, the actual Revolution takes up only a small portion of the book. The rest is telling what lead to the war, what life was like for those who lived in the soon-to-be United States at the time, and how the Revolution changed the politics, economy, and daily life of Americans, and how it ...more
SJ Loria
Jan 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The most concise, bang for your buck, and informative history of the American Revolution. Each chapter is meticulously researched, wonderfully presented and careful to provide multiple perspectives. This is the kind of history book with no "filler" text or unnecessary rambling. It's almost as if you could underline every sentence because each has so much to offer. This book is outstanding.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for my American Conflict course. Absolutely loved it for the principle fact that it narrates a historical event in an actually interesting and attention grasping voice. A very welcomed deviation from the history textbooks that I am accustomed to.
Pete Stevenson
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History Buffs
This is the best American Revolution review book there is. It does not go into depth on any one subject, but it explains everything very easily, and is very short (~200 pages).
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Gordon S. Wood's history of the American Revolution is a general analysis of the revolution, its causes, and outcomes. His introduction briefly outlines the historiography of the Revolution, from the early hagiographic view of the revolution as the product of heroic individuals, to more recent emphases on the now-apparent inconsistencies between the rhetoric and continued slavery, marginalization of women and mistreatment of native Americans. Wood tries to accommodate all these views while recon ...more
Royal Hinshaw
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars. A concise history that focuses less than one might expect on the military conflict and more on the events that led up to the Colonies falling out with British rule and the truly revolutionary ideas upon which the new nation would be founded. Ideas relating to freedom and equality that we take for granted now, but were a clear break from principles underpinning European societies with a hereditary class system left over from the feudal era. If that is exactly what you are l ...more
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent review of the American Revolution, which is a subject that had been years since I studied. Gordon Wood has a writing style that makes it easy to understand complex subjects. The book fulfilled what I desired it: survey of the situation between Britain and the colonies before the Revolution, feelings of the colonists, reasons for the revolution, a fair amount of attention on the war itself, detail of the ~5 years after the war when the Constitution was drawn up -- and the discussion tha ...more
Kelli Peters
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gordon Wood provides a concise and clear of the American Revolution in this work. Wood describes how and why the colonies decided to declare independence from Great Britain and what kind of radical changes this led to in the new United States and around the world. This work is a well written, brief history that would be great for any student of US history.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
The American Revolution

Wood attempts to survey the most important aspects of the American Revolution without trying to argue whether or not the consequences of the Revolution were good or bad. His reasoning for this, which is explained in the preface of the book, is that “the history of the American Revolution...ought not to be viewed as a story of right and wrong or good and evil from which moral lessons are to be drawn” (xxv, Wood). However, his main argument is that the democracy that forme
Gordon S. Wood’s The American Revolution: A History provides a pleasantly swift account of the conflicts and motivations of the period from 1760 to 1790. Its language is simple and straightforward, and the organization of the book is logical and precise. Altogether, its pace and elementary approach provides for an entertaining read.

The work’s objectives, according to Wood, are: “How the Revolution came about, what its character was, and what its consequences were – not whether it was good or bad
Robin Friedman
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Beginnings Of American Democracy

The American Revolution remains the formative event in our Nation's history. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln looked back to it to define the significance of the conflict and to restate the ideals and aspirations of our country.

In "The American Revolution: A History" the distinguished historian of the American Revolution, Gordon Wood, has written a succinct summary of the Revolution which will give the reader a good overview of the event. The book will al
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Gordon Wood is the Dean of US Revolutionary history. This book, roughly 166 pages of text, demonstrates while that title is so rightly bestowed. This text, as part of series exploring great topic of world history, is dense and would appeal to an audience who wants to explore a specific era of history in a greater depth.

I feel I am generally well-read in this era, however, I picked up quite a bit, factually and interpretively. Not only does Wood explore the political, he explores the impact of t
Mark Geise
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
“The American Revolution: A History” by Gordon Wood is an enjoyable little read that drives home the point that the American Revolution was about much more than an armed conflict between a colony and its mother country. The Revolution was a culmination of multiple trends in the United States, Britain, and the western world as a whole.

Wood also does a good job explaining the transition from a weak confederation to a stronger federal government. I think he is a bit too sympathetic to the belief t
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nifty synopsis of Wood's work on the Revolutionary period. The bracing thing about Woods'writing is that he explains the significance of ideas both in the context of their origin and shows how they remain embedded in our mental DNA. The insurgents in the American colonies had important connections with critics of George III and parliament in England. The events of 1775-83 were much more than a colonial revolt. There was real social change as well as political. This was also an ideological strugg ...more
Kate Lawrence
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
I expected a history of the war itself, battle by battle, but this is different. More of an analysis, it begins by digging into the reasons why the American colonies came to break with Great Britain, discusses the changes in American thinking that occurred as the war progressed, and ends with how the legacy of the American Revolution affected subsequent American history. While not the book to pick up if you want to know the who-fought-where-and-what-happened details of the war, it is nonetheless ...more
Sep 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Wood, Gordon S. THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: A History. (2002). ****. If you are looking for a rehash of the battles of the Revolution, this is not the place to look. Instead, what we get from Professor Wood is a sociological history of America from about 1760 to about 1789. This summing up of the relationship of our young country’s political thinking vs. traditional ideas of government is a fascinating account of a new mindset shaped by the circumstances of our development as a community. The actua ...more
Bob Mobley
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gordon Wood has written a superb, concise, thoughtful and analytical study of the American Revolution that is definitely worth reading. This book is part of the Modern Library Chronicles that feature concise studies by leading authorities in their disciplines. Professor Gordon Wood is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his studies of "The Radicalism of the American Revolution." Drawing upon his deep knowledge of the resources relating to the American Revolution, Professor Wood has written an elegant sy ...more
Richard Subber
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
American Revolution is well worth a read, especially if you think the average bear knows less than you know about the Revolutionary period.
For example, Wood suggests that the strong federal Constitution adopted in 1788 was a direct consequence of the “factious and tyrannical” majorities of voters who, in the 1780s, filled their bumbling, politicized state legislatures with ambitious local spokesmen for special interests. The framers of the Constitution saw a chaos of “elective despotism,” with “
I read this book for my book report. Here is my analysis, taken straight from my book report (which is not completely finished as of 7/9/09 but whatever. The analysis is always easiest to do, cuz all you have to do is say how much you hated the book and thought it was horrible or how much you loved the book and think everyone should read it).

I sort of liked this book and sort of wanted to bury it in the dark and leafy depths of my overgrown backyard and never look at it again. Some part
Mark Valentine
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
The subtitle for Wood's primer on the American Revolution should include...'and its greatest result: the U. S. Constitution.' The second half of the history relates path the 13 State Constitutions took which led to the Articles of Confederation which led to the U. S. Constitution. As a social, cultural, and political history, Wood accomplishes much in this brief study.

[Aside: Recently it seems vogue for Presidential candidates to campaign on making America safe but when the new Presidents places
Scott Thompson
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
In college, one of my history professors was adamant that a real revolution is a complete change. The term revolution is overused today. But the American Revolution was a true revolution because it was a complete change from the way things had been. The world changed with the Revolutionary War in America. It wasn’t just that a new country was founded, but that new attitudes and ideas about government, society, and freedom were rooted. Many of the new ideas took time to develop, but they were fir ...more
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Gordon S. Wood is Professor of History at Brown University. He received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Radicalism of the American Revolution and the 1970 Bancroft Prize for The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 .
More about Gordon S. Wood...

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