Gordon Wood’s The Radicalism of the American Revolution, winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for History, challenges the argument that American Revolution lacked sufficient social or economic change to considered truly revolutionary. Historians and philosophers (Wood cites Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution as one example) have argued that the French and other “modern revolutions” arose out of “internal violence, class conflict, and social deprivation.”
In contrast, America seemed to lack the wide-scale poverty and political oppression present in other revolutions. None of the revolutionaries attempted to reshape the new country’s “social order,” instead they settled for more conservative measures that resulted in a government distinct from Britain’s but also sharing many striking characteristics. One could argue, as Wood notes, that Americans were merely an exaggerated version of English citizens, expanding upon the emphasis on liberty and freedom present in British society. Even the American’s eventual repudiation of the English monarchy in some ways serves as an example of this exaggeration.
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