Audiobook Review: Great Courses: Origins And Ideologies Of The American Revolution: Part Two

Great Courses:  Origins and Ideologies Of The American Revolution:  Part Two, taught by Peter Mancall

I must admit that I found this particular part of the course to be rather compelling.  In particular, I am fascinated about situations where communication and trust break down, and where what seems like entirely logical and rational behavior to one side of a dispute ends up provoking a response that is entirely unexpected and that takes an existing crisis to a whole new level.  And this particular part of the course on the American Revolution looks at that problem in some detail, one I often think about [1].  In the period shortly before the American Revolution we have a classic case of what happens when people who fancy themselves to be in authority completely fail to grasp what is dividing them from people who are estranged from them, and the thousands of miles between them did not make matters any easier.  Indeed, the path from riots and political protest over early taxation efforts and lawsuits against novel laws moved into more violence in a rather predictable fashion, although few among the advisers to George III appear to have really understood what was at the grasp of the colonial issue with British efforts to increase control and revenue without addressing concerns of legitimacy and self-government.

The lectures of part two of this course begin with the way Parliament dug in its heels in the aftermath of the Stamp Act failure through the Declaratory Act which unwisely and incorrectly claimed that Parliament had the right to bind the colonists in all things whatsoever and in the Townsend duties (13), moving on to the crisis of representation that ensured that the colonists could not and would never be effectively represented in Parliament (14), and the logic of loyalty and resistance that played itself out in the late 1760’s (15).  After this comes a look at Franklin’s search for reconciliation between the colonists and British government, which got him nothing but hostility from the British government for all of his troubles (16), the Boston Massacre (17), and the Tea Act (18) that was opposed in a principled and moderate manner by colonists.  The professor then moves on to discuss the Boston Tea Party and the coercive acts that followed which made war more or less inevitable (19), the first Continental Congress (20), the battles at Lexington and Concord that turned a long-running hostility into an armed insurrection (21), and the Second Continental Congress and Bunker Hill (22).  The lectures of this part then close with discussions of Thomas Paine and his famous pamphlet Common Sense (23) and the British seizure of New York and what it meant (24).

Between 1765 and 1775, what had been a genuine if profound misunderstanding gradually became ramped up in the face of imperial cluelessness and colonist paranoia into armed conflict where it was impossible for the two sides to give way.  All of this happened before the logic of independence was seen as irrefutable by even those who had been among the colonial resistance.  Even so, we may see from these lectures and the events that are portrayed in them that Parliament really did believe their own press notices and was drinking plenty of kool-aid and the fact that the paranoid oppositional politics of the colonists had elements of a self-fulfilling prophecy about them in that they saw what they expected.  Perhaps more worrisome, though, is the fact that the same oppositional politics that made trust and communication so problematic in the period before the outbreak of revolution are present in our own society, where the actions of one side or another are viewed with extreme negativity and with no benefit of the doubt and where increasing rhetorical hostility leaves little room to stand down before genuine conflict erupts.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/10/the-ghost-of-conversations-past-present-and-future/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/15/how-do-we-trust-the-heart-of-an-author/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/06/21/book-review-mother-should-i-trust-the-government/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/04/13/your-trust-account-is-overdrawn/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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