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Bernard Bailyn, Director
HARVARD UNIVERSITY

 
 

American Revolutions in the Atlantic World

   

Professor Vincent Brown
Harvard University
Spring 2004


In the last quarter of the eighteenth century two great upheavals shook the Atlantic empires of Great Britain and France. The American (1776-1789) and the Haitian (1791-1804) revolutions threw the imperial Atlantic world into chaos, killing and dislocating tens of thousands, depriving European powers of prized colonial possessions, disrupting established political orders and patterns of commerce, and finally, creating the first two independent post-colonial nation states in the Americas.

This course considers the Age of Revolution in the North Atlantic world, roughly encompassing the latter half of the eighteenth century, as a continuous sequence of radical challenges to established authority resulting in fundamental transformations of governance throughout the region. We will view the progression of the American and Haitian revolutions as a kind of chain reaction, as if the Atlantic world was, as historian R.R. Palmer has written, “swept in the last four decades of the eighteenth century by a single revolutionary movement,” though one of widely ranging inspirations, goals, and outcomes. While our focus will remain on British North America and French St. Domingue, we will discuss the impact of events in Europe on the American colonies as well as the reverberations that these American revolutions had in the Old World. Exploring how various groups of people contended with order and anarchy, slavery and liberty, the course will highlight connections between the various revolutionary and counter-revolutionary movements that transformed American territories from imperial colonies to fledgling nation states. As the course examines the relations between economy, social organization, and political struggle on a grand scale, we will consider the ways that the aspirations and actions of common men and women mediated major developments in circum-Atlantic history.


COURSE REQUIREMENTS:

· Approx. 100-150 pages of reading/ week
· 5-6 page book review, due March 16 (30% of grade)
· One-hour midterm exam, April 13 (30% of grade)
· Three-hour final exam (30% of grade)
· Attendance and class participation (10% of grade)

Required Texts:

Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders (New York: A. Knopf, 2003)

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (New York: Vintage, 1989)

Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000)

Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000)

Course Reader

Recommended Texts:

David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (New York: Macmillan, 2002)

David Patrick Geggus and David Barry Gaspar, eds., A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution in the Greater Caribbean (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997)

CLASS SCHEDULE:

I. THE IMPERIAL ATLANTIC AND ITS DISCONTENTS

Revolution as Contagion/ History as Epidemiology

Th 2/5 THEMES, TEXTS, AND REQUIREMENTS

Mapping the Atlantic: Empires in Motion

T 2/10 MAKING AND MARKING ATLANTIC TERRITORIES

Alfred W. Crosby, “Infectious Disease and the Demography of Atlantic Peoples,” in The Atlantic World in the Age of Empire (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2001), pp. 169-79
David Armitage, “Three Concepts of Atlantic History,” in David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (New York: Macmillan, 2002), pp. 11-27

Th 2/12 SEAMEN, CAPTIVES, MIGRANTS, AND SOJOURNERS

Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, chapters 1-2, pp. 1-70

The Administration of Empire and the Shock of World War

T 2/17 THE BASES OF IMPERIAL POWER

Elizabeth Mancke, “Empire and State,” in David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (New York: Macmillan, 2002), pp. 175-195
Robin Blackburn, “Hanoverian Britain: Slavery and Empire,” in The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 67-107

Th 2/19 THE SEVEN YEARS WAR IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD

Jack P. Greene, “The Origins of the New Colonial Policy, 1748-1763,” in A Companion Guide, pp. 101-11
Thomas L. Purvis, “The Seven Years’ War and its Political Legacy,” in A Companion Guide, pp. 112-117

Cycles of Rebellion

T 2/24 SLAVE INSURGENCY

Michael Craton, “Jamaica, 1760: Tacky’s Revolt,” in Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 125-39
Carolyn Fick, “Slave Resistance,” The Making of Haiti: The St. Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990), pp. 46-75

Th 2/26 RUMORS OF REVOLT

Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, chapters 5-7, pp. 143-247


II. REVOLUTION IN NORTH AMERICA

The Colonial Elite: Backing Out of Empire

T 3/2 CRISES OF BRITISH IMPERIAL MANAGEMENT

O’ Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided, pp. 3-134

Th 3/4 THE RIGHTS OF FREEBORN ENGLISHMEN

Pauline Maier, “The Stamp Act Riots and Ordered Resistance,” From Resistance to Revolution, pp. 51-76

Divergent Paths in Anglo-America

T 3/9 EMPIRE AND DEPENDENCY

O’ Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided, pp. 137-248

Th 3/11 IMPERIAL CIVIL WAR

Pauline Maier, “The Making of an American Revolution, 1772-1776,” From Resistance to Revolution, pp. 228-70

Revolt in North America

T 3/16 EPIDEMIOLOGY AS HISTORY

Elisabeth A. Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001), pp. 80-134

**AN EMPIRE DIVIDED BOOK REVIEW DUE**

Th 3/18 POPULAR ASPIRATIONS

Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew, pp. 3-36
Woody Holton, “’Rebel Against Rebel’: Enslaved Virginians and the Coming of the American Revolution,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 105 (Spring 1997), 157-92

The Constitution of the U.S.A: Revolutionary Idealism and Conservative Realism

T 3/23 FROM REVOLUTION TO CONSTITUTION

Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew, pp. 37-59, 100-130

Th 3/25 WINNERS AND LOSERS

Jan Lewis, “’Of Every Age Sex & Condition’: The Representation of Women in the Constitution,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 15 (Fall 1995), pp. 359-87
Paul Finkelman, “Slavery and the Constitutional Convention: Making a Covenant with Death,” in Richard Beeman et al, eds., Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), pp. 188-225
James H. Merrell, “Declarations of Independence: Indian-White Relations in the New Nation,” in Jack P. Greene, ed., The American Revolution: its Character and its Limits (New York: New York University Press, 1987), pp. 197-223

**Spring Recess, March 27- April 4**


III. THE CONTAGION OF LIBERTY

Contagion and Counter-Revolution

T 4/6 THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

Eliga H. Gould, “Revolution and Counter-Revolution,” in David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (New York: Macmillan, 2002), pp. 196-213
Alfred F. Young, “Common Sense and The Rights of Man in America: The Celebration and Damnation of Thomas Paine,” in K. Gavroglu, ed., Science, Mind, and Art (Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995), pp. 411-439

Th 4/8 THE ROYALISTS RESPOND

Linebaugh and Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra, chapter 8, pp. 248-86

Servile War in St. Domingue

T 4/13 **MID-TERM EXAMINATION**

Th 4/15 THE SCRAMBLING OF IMPERIAL DESIGNS

Screening: Burn
C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins, chapters I-VI, pp. 3-162

The Haitian Revolution

T 4/20 TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE AND THE OVERTHROW OF SLAVERY

Alexander Hamilton and The Haitian Revolution, in Harold Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Vol. XXII (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), pp. 425-27, 473-75, 491-93, 500-03

Th 4/22 THE RISE OF DESSALINES

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins, Chapters VII-XII, pp. 163-288

Contagion and Counter-Revolution Reprised

T 4/27 TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE UPON THE COMMON WIND

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins, Chapter XIII, pp. 289-377
David Patrick Geggus, “Slavery, War, and Revolution in the Greater Caribbean, 1789-1815” in Geggus and David Barry Gaspar, eds., A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution in the Greater Caribbean (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), pp. 1-50

Th 4/29 THE SLAVEHOLDERS RESPOND

James Sidbury, “Saint Domingue in Virginia: Ideology, Local Meanings, and Resistance to Slavery, 1790-1800,” Journal of Southern History 63, No.3 (1997), pp.531-52
Michael Zuckerman, “The Power of Blackness: Thomas Jefferson and the Revolution in St. Domingue,” Almost Chosen People: Oblique Biographies in the American Grain (Berkeley, 1993), pp. 175-218

The Age of Revolution in the Atlantic World: Summary and Conclusion

T 5/4 A SLAVEHOLDER’S REPUBLIC AND A POSTCOLONIAL TYRANNY

Bernard Bailyn, To Begin the World Anew, pp. 131-49
Jack P. Greene, “The American Revolution,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No.1 (February 2000), 9pp.
Frankin W. Knight, “The Haitian Revolution,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No.1 (February 2000), 12pp.

Th 5/6 ORDER OUT OF CHAOS: AMERICAN NATIONS AS DISSIPATIVE STRUCTURES

 
 
     
  © 2009 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Created January 16, 1998; last revised February 24, 2011.