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The American Revolution

By Marcus Rediker at the University of Pittsburgh

History 1611 is an intensive exploration of the origins and the consequences of the American Revolution. The course will focus on the social, economic, and political development of the North American colonies, and on the formation of the American nation from the interactions and conflicts among Native American, African, and European cultures. We shall discuss the growth of democracy and slavery, the impact of the Revolution on the lives of rich and poor, male and female, red, white, and black Americans. We will cover topics ranging from the firestorm of religious enthusiasm in the Great Awakening to the impassioned writing of Thomas Paine, to turbulent crowd action and popular justice, to the revolutionary experiences of merchants and planters, sailors, and slaves.

This course also seeks to teach and encourage students to think critically and creatively about the past, present, and future. We will explore different historical interpretations, analyzing the disputes among historians and judging the merits of various arguments. Students will be encouraged to develop their own perspectives on the American experience both past and present.

The format of the course includes an occasional lecture, but will primarily consist of readings and discussion in a colloquial approach. Class participation is important to the success of the course, so it is crucial that you attend regularly and speak out. Grades will be based on (1) participation, (2) a mid-term exam, (3) a 5-7 page paper (details later), and (4) a two-hour final examination. Each of the four components will account for 25% of the final grade.


  • Gary B. Nash, The Urban Crucible: The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution.
  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense.
  • Alfred F. Young, ed., The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism.