FACES OF REVOLUTION: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence by Bernard Bailyn

FACES OF REVOLUTION: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A collection of 12 essays on ""the background, origins, character, and legacy"" of the American Revolution, filled with the grace and insight that has made Bailyn (Adams University Professor/Harvard) a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner (The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, 1968, and Voyagers to the West, 1986). Rather than an organic whole, Bailyn admits, these essays (11 of which were previously published in William and Mary Quarterly, New England Quarterly, etc.) constitute a theme and variations: ""Personalities and ideas, even phrases, reappear in different contexts; themes are touched on, anticipated, in one essay and developed more fully in another."" Although Bailyn has explored many of these ideas before, readers who have not encountered his longer works will find these sketches probing and scintillating. For instance, in the eight personality profiles, cantankerous John Adams is revealed as a diarist whose prose was ""the most alive and readable of any written in eighteenth-century America""; Thomas Jefferson as a simplistic theorist but supple and pragmatic administrator; colonial governor of Massachusetts and Loyalist Thomas Hutchinson as a bland, successful politician but hopelessly out of touch with the simmering social resentments that exploded in the Revolution. In addition, four thematic essays cover the year 1776, political experience and radical ideas in the colonies, central themes of the war, and the Constitution as the ideological fulfillment of the Revolution (the one essay not previously published). While lacking the vigor of the character studies, they also exhibit Bailyn's gift for close analysis, and strongly emphasize his contention that widely held beliefs about liberty, not social or economic causes, resulted in the Revolution. A fascinating collection for those who don't mind an accomplished historian's switch from an epic canvas to miniatures.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf