The Social Impact of the Revolution

The Social Impact of the Revolution

Robert Nisbet

The nation's bicentenary has spurred a number of leading scholars to take another look at the American Revolution. Some have uncovered new data on social and economic life in colonial America. Others have sought anew to explain the Revolution's causes and effects, its leaders' strengths and weaknesses. Here, Sociologist Robert Nisbet discusses the Revolution's social impact.

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0m 51sec

Was there in fact an American Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century? By this, I mean a revolution involving sudden, decisive, and irreversible changes in social institutions, groups, and traditions, in addition to the war of liberation from England that we are more likely to celebrate.

Clearly, this is a question that generates much controversy. There are scholars whose answer to the question is strongly negative. Indeed, ever since Edmund Burke's time there have been students to declare that revolution in any precise sense of the word did not take place—that in substance the American Revolution was no more than a group of Englishmen fighting on distant shores for traditionally English political rights against a government that had sought to exploit and tyrannize. According to this argument, it was a war of restitution and liberation, not revolution; the outcome, one set of political governors replacing another. This view is widespread in our time and is found as often among ideological conservatives as among liberals and radicals.


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