The Continental Revolution
Fall 2017 Public Lecture Series
As part of the Kinder Institute’s Fall 2017 Public Lecture Series, and in partnership with W.W. Norton & Company, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and University of Virginia Professor and Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair of History Alan Taylor will give an October 4 talk entitled “The Continental Revolution,” crafting a new, more thorough narrative of the American Revolution that traces the conflict from the turbulent conditions leading up to war through the political divisions that influenced the nation’s westward trajectory in the Revolution’s immediate aftermath (see abstract below). Free and open to the public, the lecture will be held at 5:30PM in Neff Hall 204.
The American Revolution is often portrayed as a high-minded, orderly event whose capstone, the Constitution, provided the ideal framework for a democratic, prosperous nation. In this lecture, Taylor gives us a different creation story in this magisterial history of the nation’s founding.
Rising out of the continental rivalries of European empires and their native allies, Taylor’s Revolution builds like a ground fire overspreading Britain’s mainland colonies, fueled by local conditions, destructive and hard to quell. Conflict ignited on the frontier, where settlers clamored to push west into Indian lands against British restrictions, and in the seaboard cities, where commercial elites mobilized riots and boycotts to resist British tax policies. When war erupted, Patriot crowds harassed Loyalists and nonpartisans into compliance with their cause. Brutal guerrilla violence flared all along the frontier from New York to the Carolinas, fed by internal divisions as well as the clash with Britain. Taylor skillfully draws France, Spain, and native powers into a comprehensive narrative of the war that delivers the major battles, generals, and common soldiers with insight and power.
With discord smoldering in the fragile new nation through the 1780s, nationalist leaders such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton sought to restrain unruly state democracies and consolidate power in a Federal Constitution. Assuming the mantle of “We the People,” the advocates of national power ratified the new frame of government. But their opponents prevailed in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, whose vision of a western “empire of liberty” aligned with the long-standing, expansive ambitions of frontier settlers. White settlement and black slavery spread west, setting the stage for a civil war that nearly destroyed the union created by the founders.
Born in Portland, Maine on June 17, 1955, Alan Taylor attended Colby College, graduating in 1977. After serving as a researcher for historic preservation in the United States Virgin Islands (1977-79), he pursued graduate study at Brandeis University, receiving his Ph.D. in American History in 1986. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Early American History and Culture (Williamsburg, Virginia), he taught in the history department at Boston University from 1987 to 1994. He then served as a Professor of History at University of California-Davis, teaching courses in early American history, the history of the American West, and the history of Canada, and since 2014, he has held the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair in the Corcoran History Department at the University of Virginia.
He long served as the faculty advisor for the California State Social Science and History Project, which provides curriculum support and professional development for K-12 teachers in history and social studies. In 2002, he won the University of California at Davis Award for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement and the Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association, Teaching Excellence Award.
Taylor has published eight books: Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820 (1990); William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic (1995); American Colonies (2001); Writing Early American History (2005); The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (2006); The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (2010); The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia (2013); and American Revolutions: A Continental History (2016).
William Cooper’s Town won the Pulitzer Prize for American history in addition to the Bancroft and Beveridge prizes. The Internal Enemy won the Pulitzer Prize for American history and the Merle Curti Prize for Social History (OAH). American Colonies won the 2001 Gold Medal for Non-Fiction from the Commonwealth Club of California. The Divided Ground won the 2007 Society for Historians of the Early Republic book prize and the 2004-7 Society of the Cincinnati triennial book prize. The Civil War of 1812 won the Empire State History Prize and was a finalist for the George Washington Prize.