October 17

Blog #26 – A lesson in historiography

According to the handout that I gave you about Revolutionary historiography, there are two main schools of thought on how to view that time period. 

The first one, the socio-economic historians (now known as Progressives for the time period during which they wrote) felt that the AR erupted because of the economic and social inequalities endured by the poor and underprivileged between the 1750s and 1760s.  The middle-class merchants were adversely affected by the new Imperial taxes and regulations, and together with the poor, forged an alliance with the “radical groups” which actually sparked a class struggle.  You can see this in the Regulators of North Carolina and the Paxton Boys’ rebellion in addition to the several riots mentioned by Zinn in Ch. 4, “Tyranny is Tyranny.”  More people were allowed to vote, own property, and hold elected offices. A strong federal government wasn’t allowed to exist b/c the states had strong, written constitutions. 

Arthur M. Schlesinger mentioned in his 1918 book (read the text online!) on the time period that the radicals eventually lost the peace to the businessmen who wanted a stronger federal government after the AR was over because that stronger government was better at securing property rights and helped pay off a number of speculators’ debts.  Historians Mary and Oscar Handlin question Schlesinger’s assumptions by looking at class divisions both before and after the war (that there wasn’t much change), and this brings into question the whole revolutionary thesis.  

The second group of historians mentioned in our article, the conservative historians (now known as consensus because they were trying to emphasize American history as a cohesive whole and not a jumble of ideas and experiments in participatory democracy) felt that the AR really was not a true revolution.  Instead, the American colonists fought to maintain “the existing democratic social order in the colonies…[and] to protect American rights and liberties against British [tyranny].” 

For the most part, this was what I was taught in school and most likely so were you.  Our history teachers have tried to show us that after 1763, everything changed.  But in between 1607 and 1763, the time period called “salutary neglect,” English colonists developed their own democratic, legal and economic traditions mostly based on what they already knew – the English system.  As one of my favorite historians, Daniel Boorstin, wrote, the colonists adopted traditional English rights like trial by jury, free speech, petition, and assembly as well as no taxation without representation.  So, in essence, the most white male colonists already exercised these rights (b/c land was available and many more Americans owned land than did Englishmen) when the British tried to interfere w/ this awesome plan. 

Charlie Beard - A Progressive, just like it says.

The last observation in the article I gave you mentions that both groups, the Progressives and the Consensus historians, reflected the reality of the life that they were living at that time, and therefore their interpretation of the AR was influenced by that.  For instance, if someone wrote a history of an American war while America was currently at war, chances are, that historian’s view on the historic war might reflect the popularity of the current war or whether or not it was fought for a just cause. 

In this case, the Progressives wrote at the end of the 19th / early 20th Century when big corporations ruled, unions were oppressed, and working conditions were awful.  Wages were low, and hours were long.  Concerns about those present conditions (1895-1920) surely had to have influenced the Progressives.   Conversely, the Consensus historians wrote during the post World War II era (1945-1965) in which we struggled with the Soviet Union during the Cold War (and tried to put on a united front in which democracy and capitalism have always triumphed).  But at the same time, the country was torn with internal contradictions and strife (the Civil Rights era, women’s movement, anti-war campaign, widening gap between rich and poor starting in the late 60s), so historical ethnic strife was de-emphasized. 

After reading this whole thing, please answer these questions about the AR historiography:

1. Which side – Progressives or Consensus – seems to have the more persuasive argument about how to view the AR?  Why?

2. Does Howard Zinn seem to fit into these categories?  Explain your answer (I might suggest that you check out the last two links at the bottom).

3. After reading this handout and doing this blog, can you still define history as just facts, dates, and people?  Or does history include something else?  Explain. 

300 words minimum for the total blog.  Due by Friday, October 21 (yes, new due date) before class begins. 

http://mises.org/daily/2541 – more detailed analysis on the historiography of the AR
http://www.dcte.udel.edu/hlp/resources/revolution/ChangingInterpRevol.pdf – simple one page summary of the major American historians and who changed the interpretations.  Includes post-1965 takes on the war. 
http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0012122005/student_view0/chapter5/where_historians_disagree.html – Another great summary look at AR historiography including the latest interpretation by Gordon Wood and his groundbreaking book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992). 

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Posted October 17, 2011 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

49 thoughts on “Blog #26 – A lesson in historiography

  1. Allison Roche

    1. I think that the consensus have a more persuasive argument about how we view the American Revolution. Their argument makes sense and gives Americans a more flattering view of why we left Britain. It’s a lot easier to tell people that we caused a war in order to defend an already prosperous and developing democracy rather than tell someone that we caused a was because we as colonists were dissatisfied with Britain and simply wanted more than they could or would give us. After all this is the version we were taught in school so it must be persuasive to some degree.
    2. I’m not sure which category Zinn fits into. He could fall into either category depending on how you choose to read it. His views seem progressive but at the same time they are consensus. He is a good blend of the two, taking both of their finest qualities and points and mixing them into a new category. He could be progresensus!
    3. It would be foolish to define history as just a jumble of random facts, dates and people. History is also emotion. We wouldn’t have rebelled if we were satisfied with our status of living. We were sulky. Because of this, we became unrest and not see the reason behind Britain’s logical arguments for taxing us more. We decided that it was unjust and they just hated us. A revolution is a fiery word for an idea some fiery people had. Without emotion history never would have unfolded as it did. It’s not only dates, names and people. It’s the emotion the people felt as well. In addition to feelings however it’s also personalities. If Washington had been a lazy underachiever content with being a servant he would have done that instead of becoming a general (even though he wasn’t very successful). Without him America wouldn’t be what it is today.

  2. Cameron Crawford-Mook

    1. I think the consensus historians have the most persuasive argument, because they take into account the fact that many colonists were loyal to the mother country until the very last moment. I also think their argument makes a lot of sense. As demonstrated by Sam Adams encouraging rebellion, many people of the higher class encouraged lower class workers to rebel against taxes. Yes, the merchants were hurting, which helped to gain support among the more “average” people, but this anger was encouraged by the wealthier, who wanted to preserve the rights they had become accustomed to having.
    2. I would say that Zinn has a more consensus lean. The chapter out of his book that we read spends a lot of time discussing how the elites used the anger many of the working class people felt and directed it toward England, the parliament and king.
    3. I do not think you can just define history as dusty, boring people and facts. It is nearly impossible to report anything in a purely factual way, there is always going to be a spin. Even the choice of what facts to include is a direct reflection of bias. At the same time, various histories of events can be used not only to understand the period they are reporting on, but also to provide a history of the time period the author was writing in and all the social biases that existed in that era. I think its fascinating to think about how people use history (a subject we traditionally think is set in stone) to manipulate the people of the day to fit with whatever the agenda of that time period is. Some of our most treasured American stories came about this way. For example, Paul Revere didn’t have nearly the importance we think of him having today during his lifetime. He became famous after the publication of “Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride” in the years before the Civil War, when people wanted to create a sense of patriotism and needed a poster child.

  3. Ben Cooper

    1. I think the Consensus side of the argument is more persuasive in influencing how we view the American Revolution. I think it makes more sense that the colonists developed a democratic system with similar rights to those of the British during the 100 years of salutary neglect. It is also a more positive view of the American Revolution that we were fighting to maintain the liberties we had become accustomed to; rather than the view that the upper class merely got greedy and started the AR so they could get even richer.
    2. Howard Zinn most definitely fits in the category of the socio-economic historians. He portrayed the Revolution as the upper class manipulating the working class into fighting the British. He argued that the upper class desired to increase their collective wealth and saw the AR as an opportunity to do so.
    3. I don’t believe that history is just facts dates and people. Possibly the biggest component of history is interpretation. As demonstrated in the previous questions, just about every facet of any historical event depends largely on interpretation. “The AR was a class struggle” “The AR was just trying to keep things the same”. As with any facet of history, personal bias, opinion, and the environment that the historians live in all affect their interpretation of historical events. This can make history much more complex than it initially appears to the average student. Because history is so much interpretation, you have to look at the facts and decide for yourself how and why things happened.

  4. Nathan Willey

    1. I suppose that the Consensus Historians have a better way of looking at the situation because it has been around for much longer and it goes with the problems of the time period of the American Revolutionary War. The progressives have a good point but when you really think about it, it’s obvious that the colonists were very angry about the changes that were being made and while they ultimately decided on independence, they still were fighting the entire war because they wanted their lives to be the same as they were before the British Parliament changed laws and added taxes. No matter what side you look at it from, the war was still fought for a good cause.
    2. I’m not really sure which side Zinn lies on when he talks about the sides of the American Revolution. Sometimes he seems Progressive but then he’ll make a point that is very Consensus-like. I see Zinn like myself because after reading this blog, I couldn’t decide which side I was on either. It is easier to defend the Consensus side of things, but we weren’t there so we probably wont ever know for sure. It’s good to have research and look things up but there will always be questions to be asked in history, and many of them cannot be answered.
    3. I believe that history is a collection of facts and dates, but it has something much more to it. These are true events that happened to real people and it’s hard to comprehend that sometimes and we just memorize things so that we can get a good grade. I believe that history has many parts and you never know for sure what will come out of it when you’re studying. If you look over certain things, then you’ll get a different viewpoint and probably change your mind a lot while studying history. I personally changed my views when I watched John Adams. I used to think the Red Coats were really bad people and they were taking away our freedom but now I know that the red coats were being provoked and I have an entirely different perspective to dwell upon.

  5. Brandon Herman

    1. I am definitely on the side of the consensus argument. I greatly agree on the argument that the american revolution was not a complete revolution. We did not destroy and take over the government, we just seemed to break off. We also did not go to England, and revolutionize and get rid of their government. The greatest argument for this point, is that oct of the people in the government before the “revolution” were still in the government after. So in a sense it is a break off, rather then an revolution. It also in a sense glorifies the united states, in the sense that we fought tyranny and strode for democracy and goodness!
    2. I believe that Howard Zinn seemed to fit more into the Socio-economic historians. In the article we read it seemed that he blamed most of the issues on the anger between the rich and poor and the huge wealth difference. He also made it seem as fi the rich controlled the poor. He also talks a lot about how much the tax affected the poor which makes me feel like he was more Socio-economic.
    3. Yes in a sense history was and is just facts but there is something else behind history. in my opinion to understand history truly you have to know how the people of those times were thinking. You have to be able to develop a sense of what it was actually like back then rather then just a bunch of facts. It was also the emotions of the time that we have to understand. So we can feel the anger and hostility they felt rather then just the dates. It helps give us a true insight on the past rather then just numbers, we can in a way, understand how it was back then.

  6. Claire Fisher

    I think that the Consensus historians seem to have a more persuasive argument than the Progressive historians. The consensus historians make more sense to me simply because their arguments make more sense than the argument that there was a large class struggle and everything changed, because it really didn’t. I think that it makes sense that the American Revolution wasn’t really a revolution, but was simply continuing the existing rights that the Americans had held before 1763 when the “salutary neglect” ended. I think this is also true because these were rights given to the American’s while they were in England.

    I think that Howard Zinn doesn’t really fit into either category completely. I think that he fits into both categories in some ways and in some of his views. He’s kind of like a good mix of both; I think this is because he tries to show all the sides of history and not just one. Which I think is really good because then you have more than one way to view history in one text.

    I think that after reading the handout and after doing the blog you cannot define history as simply facts, dates, and people. I think history definitely includes all of those things, but I think a huge part of history is the interpretation. The way a historian interprets something won’t change who the dates or people, but it can change the facts. The facts can be changed because a historian’s views can impact things like who was the good guy and who was the bad guy or whether or not a cause is just or not. This can apply to the American Revolution in terms of whether the colonists had a right to put up a fight against the taxes or not. How the historian views the historical event can completely change how they present the historic information.

  7. Fred Ayres

    1. I don’t like indoctrination. I’ve been systematically taught that every colonist wanted independence and liberty and justice for all. So on went the American Revolution. Only now do I realize that that’s probably just propaganda BS. Times were tough in pre-Revolutionary America. There was as much a class struggle as there is today. Just like now with the Occupy Wall Street protests, the 99% are fed up with the lavish and scot-free lifestyle of the 1%. To branch off for a moment, we need another revolution! This is why the progressives’ argument is so appealing. We still see it happening today: the lower-class is being shat upon by the upper-class, excuse my French.

    2. Howard Zinn said that we also must take the role of the victim in a perspective of the past and never take the side of the executioner. The rich and wealthy got their way—every child is taught that America rocks because all of our ancestors banded together to get independence and liberty. But it’s not really that way. By going in-depth and actually analyzing the evidence, Zinn and many other historians like him have realized what really happened in post-Revolutionary America. The wealthy and rich got what they wanted. Not much different than usual. I, for one, am glad that we have a strong government, though I am ashamed of the methods through which it was formed.

    3. We can read about history all we want. We can read about the history behind the history and the analysis of it. We still won’t manage to understand it. Only those who were actually there know what happened. We are living in history right now. One day, liberals or conservatives will insist that they were the level-headed ones during Obama’s first term; they were the ones who never raised their voices and shouted. We know that’s not true. Both sides are to blame. But, in the future, rest assured that one side’s view of the story will prevail over the others’ and no one will really know the facts of the story.

    History is about the people. It’s not about what we read in our textbooks. I recall how the books of the Bible were chosen by church leaders with a specific agenda. If all the ‘lost’ and ‘newly discovered’ books of the Bible were to be inserted in their respective places, it wouldn’t be the same canon. That’s the point. When we cut out the actuality of events and replace them with hearsay, we get an entirely different picture. What was once a Picasso, messy and broken, yet beautiful and what he saw as truth, is turned into a Photoshop graphic, a complete and irrevocable falsified truth; never once relying on those who were actually there.

  8. hannah voigt (the one and only)

    While I believe that both sides of this argument have points of merit it seems most logical to me that the Progressives have the strongest argument. It makes sense that an unhappy influential group of middle class individuals would seek allies in the largest group of the population, the poor, who were easily tempted by thoughts of running their own government with presumably less taxes. Despite their being (according to Mary and Oscar Handlin) little class difference it would be easy to have an upheaval when most of the wealthy loyalists were driven to Canada. Since my definition of a revolution is an uprising against a system or ruler and the colonies certainly did that I have distance for the conservative saying, “it wasn’t a real revolution.” People died to fight against something in their hearts they thought was wrong, there is no clearer definition of a revolution than that.

    Howard Zinn being a true historian would fall in the middle, however I sense that if I were forced to pick a side between conservative and progressive I would put him on more of the progressive area due to his liberal views. However I do love Allision’s word for describing Howard: progresensus

    This is my favorite question, I could write a whole essay about history in the metaphysical sense.

    Saying history is just dates and facts are like saying human beings are sacks of meat, technically you would be right but in depth there is so much more, history is never ending with no beginning in memory and no end in sight, it is a connected repeating loop that twists and turns every which way. History is special because of it’s ability to be interpreted in infinite number of ways so which there is always a new way to look at an event. History is the story of us.

  9. Lenny Gross

    I believe that the progressives have a more persuasive argument on how to view the revolution. The progressives offer an actual response to why the Revolution occurred. Progressives claimed that the high taxes, economic and social injustices, class difference, the pain that the lower class had endured during the rule of King George the third, and ultimately, it was class struggle caused the war. According to the consensus, they offer no real explanation of the American Revolution and instead, explain why this American Revolution shouldn’t be considered a real Revolution in History. They claim that the colonists were trying (fighting) to protect the civil order and democracy they had already developed amongst states. Although both the things that the Progressives believe in (like class separation) and the things that the Consensus believe in (like fighting to preserve what we had already created) are both true, the Progressives offer an easier response to why the war occurred.
    I believe that Howard Zinn most easily would fit into the belief of progressive. Zinn tends to believe that the revolution occurred, and was actually considered a real revolution contrary to the belief of the Consensus historians.
    Many belief history is a blur of organized facts, dates and people. I am one of those people. I know that there is definantly organization in history and such, but I don’t think it’s any more than the past, and what has happened. History must merely be something that the people of today must learn about, not obsess about and live in. The future is approaching and the past is seceding. We must not occupy our time over analyzing what has already happened. We must learn from either the mistakes of the past, or the triumphs of it. The future is what’s going to be happening, history will not come back.

  10. Chris Robbe

    1. The progressive side has a more persuasive argument because it actually makes sense. Rather than starting a huge war for their ‘pride’. The lower class citizens started the revolution because of the huge differences in class. While the lower class are starving, they are constantly put in strain and just need that little push to cause a full-out rebellion. As well as for economic reasons, the lower class citizens also received political rights like voting, holding elected offices and owning more property. Another reason is that when the British shut off the territory West of the Appalachian mountains, many land prospecters needed a reason to ignore the law. Many of the wealthy business men simply hopped on the bandwagon when the revolution came around for their own personal gains. The only problem with this is that many of the founding fathers actually lost money from the revolution so… I don’t know if either version truly fits what happened.

    2. From the chapter out of People’s History of America, Zinn seems to fit into the Progressive theory. He thought that the wealthy controlled the poor in the American Revolution and united the lower class by granting them the power to vote and such. The upper society led the lower into a revolution in which both profited, the rich to a much larger extent though.

    3. History of course is much more than just facts, dates and people. There are psychological factors and all that good stuff at play. History is a combination of emotions and economy and facts and basically the state of the average citizen’s life. The only good way to define history is that history is a combination of the events that occurred when all these factors came into play.

  11. Ben H.

    1. I am under the impression that the Consensus historians have a more firm grasp of the concept of history, in that it is far less of a jumble of random events that occurred in a certain order. Everything–in history and most everything else–is connected to each other. I also personally believe that nothing in life is truly random; there’s a reason for everything, be it for better or for worse.

    It is good to go more in-depth in description regarding certain points and events in history, but everything is made so much clearer when you just step back and take a nice, long look at the big picture.

    2. Although Zinn seems to make some Progressive points and arguments in his works, I think that he is more of a Consensus historian. For example, his chapter titled “Tyranny Is Tyranny” makes many references to the social standings and class differences in the colonies, and both cites and expounds on specific examples of riots, speeches, and other such things. However, he takes these seemingly random selections and weaves them all together to create a single picture with his work.

    3. Allison makes a good point with mentioning emotion. I’d like to expand on that idea a little bit, if I may. In studying history, it is vital to remember that the figures we study are far more than that–while perhaps brilliant, they were still human beings, with thoughts and emotions of their own, and flawed, by the very definition of human beings. The Boston “Massacre”, as it is named, was caused by nothing more than unhappy lower-class citizens venting their frustration on British soldiers who were simply keeping their posts, egged on until one soldier, caving under the pressure, made the mistake of firing at the crowd. Thus, history was made (and promptly twisted to turn the colonists against the British, but I digress).

  12. Ellen Searle

    1. I believe that the American Revolution was a conservative movement to maintain the status quo. While class differences certainly contributed to the rebellion, I believe that the majority of it boils down to the idea of salutary neglect. While the British laws were being loosely enforced, each colony was able to develop its own culture and government. When the British began enforcing the laws, it disrupted the status quo that many Americans took for granted. They valued freedom and government by representation, and Britian’s sudden insistence that the colonists comply with British laws interfered with American values. The American Revolution occured in order to retain the principles that Americans held so dear, and it is these principles that form the basis of our nation.

    2. I believe that Zinn fits into the Progressive category. While he does discuss attempts to maintain the status quo, he mainly discusses the movements caused by differences in social classes and the role that these differences played in the Revolution. Zinn’s viewpoint about how the class divisions contributed to the Revolution lead me to believe that he fits in with the Progressive class, especially looking at the rest of his book. Zinn deals a lot with differences in social classes, and tends to interpret history from the viewpoint of the opressed or those who voices are normally not heard. Since the lower class were underrepresented in this case, it is logical to believe that Zinn is a Progressive and believes that the Revolution resulted from social differences.

    3. I believe that history is not just about facts, people, and events, but also how they are interpreted. While there are a lot of events and people, there are also a lot of ways of looking at them. I look at history to being about learning the facts about people and events and then using what you know to interpret history based on one of several viewpoints.

  13. Rachel Goldstein

    1. I think the Consensus argument is the most persuasive. The Progressive argument is interesting, but I’m not convinced. The historians themselves admitted that there wasn’t much change in the social order pre- and post-revolution. That really hurts the Progressive cause since their whole argument is based off of a class-warfare revolution. I was probably most convinced by the Consensus argument because it’s the closest to what we’ve been taught since elementary school. When that’s all you’ve been taught about something for about a decade, it’s hard to agree to an opinion that’s very different.
    2. I think that Howard Zinn fits in to the progressive category. Just based on what we’ve read from him before, he seems to see most things as rich vs. poor, old ideas vs. new concepts, those who want to cling to traditions vs. those who want change—basically class warfare.
    3. I think that history is a lot more than just facts, dates, and people. It’s also opinions and emotions. Even people who lived during that time experienced it differently, so for every event there are hundreds of different versions. I don’t think history is just bare facts and dates. To me, it’s a story, and sometimes the stories have lessons in them. It contains hints of how to solve some of today’s problems. It would be silly to make the same mistake a president or country made 50 years ago.

  14. Mallory Moss

    1.I think that the progressive viewpoint accurately affects the roots of the American Revolution. The lower class people were angry and were led to believe that their problems were the fault of the British. History is full of instances where the disenfranchised turn their anger on those in power, believing that this will cause all their problems to be solved. This is what happened to the lower class in the colonies, as they were a large group of people who had no power and no rights. As pointed out in chapter 4 of Zinn, the rich wanted to redirect the colonists’ anger towards Britain. Britain became the scapegoat for all of the problems the lower class were experiencing. The fact is, the British were only asking the colonies to pay the taxes that the British people already paid. Some taxes may have even been reasonable, as the British were providing services to the colonies such as a vast, strong army, a certain level of government, and were also a reliable trade partner.
    2.Zinn fits as a progressive because he firmly believed that a significant root of the American Revolution was the anger of the lower class. He talked about how since the rich were concerned that the poor were going to turn on them, they developed a brilliant strategy to convince the poor to rebel against their common enemy, the British. This way the rich could stay rich and at the same time remove from British control.
    3.History is more than events, people, and facts. It is the human condition, which is how humans respond to situations. People who are disenfranchised become angry. There is almost a hopelessness that their lives are never going to improve. It is human nature to then want to put their energy into trying to provoke change, which often means a change in leadership or government policy. As I write this, there is a movement taking shape throughout the U.S. called “occupy wallstreet”. Young people throughout the country feel that there are no good jobs available and the government is simply protecting the rich. In Detroit, a large group of young people have starting living in a park as a way of protesting against the government they feel is not doing enough to help find decent paying jobs and opportunity for the young.

  15. Elizabeth Benedetti

    1. I think the Consensus seems to have the more persuasive argument on how to view the American Revolution, because their points just seem to make more sense. They pretty much are saying how no one living in the American colonies wanted to change much of anything on how they lived their lives just break away from the British rule and out of everything we have read so far this seems to make a lot of sense. No one really wanted to change anything about the colonies except maybe unite them more, but even then people saw their colonies as one individual land from the rest instead of seeing them all as a whole. Everyone that had lived in the colonies, though, did seem to be fine with the social (but I am not saying everyone was completely content with them) and the way everything in the colonies was run. The fight was more just to kick the British out of there. The fight between the American colonists and the British resembled more a teenager arguing with their parents about what they could and could not do instead of two groups of people fighting a war.
    2. Howard Zinn seems to fit in with these categories, because his views on the history of America seem to jump in between the two groups. He spoke his mind with a strong attitude and I believe he would have things to say that came from both sides and would disagree with them as much as he would agree with them.
    3. I still see history as mainly being just dates, facts, and people still, but I do see that there is more to it. There are stories behind the events and reasoning behind them too that you are not always taught in school and when you get more into those types of things history seems to become a more in depth thing then what I get from reading the textbook in school. I always knew there was more to history then what you are taught in school but I never took the time to think or read about it, but when you do there is definently something about it that makes history one of the more interesting subjects you ever learn about in life.

  16. Saul Levin

    1. In my opinion the progressives had a far more accurate and persuasive opinion about the American Revolution. All of the evidence we’ve learned about in class seams to lead to this view. Americans felt they were being unfairly treated by a social and geographical group with significantly more power than them. I think the American Revolution was a real revolution because the U.S. was not a fully democratic nation before the conflict. In my opinion there wasn’t much of a class difference before and after but a revolution definitely took place.
    2. Howard Zinn is a member of the school of thinkers that believe that the revolution was a revolution but that it had little effect on social classes in comparison to others things. All work that I’ve read by Howard Zinn hard been radically to the left of the Independent line. Zinn’s mentioning of riots in chapter four of A People’s History of the United States supports that idea. Also Zinn has been known to support the common man so it would make sense that he would be more in the middle on this issue in my opinion because the consensus view says that the people were fighting a war against England which makes them look good.
    3. After this furthering of my understanding of history I think there is another dimension to history. In addition to facts, dates, and people, history includes the way we interpret the facts, dates, and people because this blog sort of proves that history can be totally different depending on the angle from which you look at it. Although those three things are one way to understand history. Recognizing your own perspective and the way you look at things affects your interpretations of those ideas making it a key part of studying history.

  17. Emily Kakos

    1. I believe that the consensus has the more persuasive argument about how to view the American Revolution. The American Colonists didn’t even want to go to war with the British in the first place. Throughout the chapter (7 probably) it talks about how the colonists wanted war to be a last resort. There were many cries for cooperation with the British. All the colonists wanted to do is keep things the way they were. The Progressives are saying that the colonists were complaining about paying taxes but again, as we read, the colonists weren’t opposed to ALL taxes, just the ones they felt were given to them unjustly.
    2. I believe Howard Zinn fits in on the Consensus and Progressive side. He talks and rants a lot about the wealth between classes, just like the Consensus people. The part of his book that we read talked a lot about how the rich elite people manipulated the anger that the poor people were feeling towards the king and parliament. Zinn even says that the upper class wanted the American Revolution to happen so that they could become even wealthier. Zinn says how it was so easy to use the poor people to the rich people’s advantage because they were so upset about the tax.
    3. I never thought history was just facts, dates and people. I’ve always loved History because I think it’s funny and informative. Throughout History you can usually deduce what is about to happen next and that makes guessing so much fun. Obviously History can be extremely complex and full of holes since the people who wrote it were after all only human. Even in this blog, you can see how facts can start to be portrayed in a way that reflects personal opinions. This could lead one to question how factual our facts actually are. Half the fun is that no one really know what happened, so debates are so easy to get involved in!

  18. Brittany Kashat

    1. I think that the Consensus side seems to have the more persuasive argument about how to view the American Revolution because, regarding the socio-economic view, according to historians Mary and Oscar Handlin, social inequalities endured by the poor didn’t change after the war. So, the socio-economic view can’t be backed up if social inequalities didn’t change. However, the Consensus view can be backed up. Consensus historians felt that we fought to maintain the existing social order. Before the American Revolution, during the 150 years of the salutary neglect period, we were prosperous in many ways, and we just wanted to get back to that. Daniel Boorstin listed many rights that we already had before the war, and after we won the war and got our independence we were able to get those rights back. So we did maintain “the existing democratic social order in the colonies”. I guess we (and you) were taught this view for a reason.
    2. I think that Howard Zinn fits into the socio-economic historians (progressives) because all throughout “Tyranny is Tyranny” he talked about the differences in social classes. He mentions a few class struggles that erupted during this time, such as the tenant riots in Jew Jersey in the 1740s, the New York tenant uprisings of the 1750s and 1760s in the Hudson Valley, and the rebellion in northeastern New York that led to the carving of Vermont out of New York. He also mentioned how the lowest 30% of the taxpaying population had no taxable property at all. They couldn’t vote and participate in town meetings.
    3. History is more than merely just stating the facts, dates, and people. History is also exploring the reasons behind the facts. For example, why did the French decide to help the colonies after the Battle of Saratoga? Why not earlier? History isn’t just saying that the Battle of Saratoga was a turning point of the American Revolution; it’s saying what made the Battle of Saratoga the turning point of the American Revolution. It’s discovering the connections between similar events in history. History is the understanding of human choices and consequences. History is not objective, it’s subjective.

  19. Kaylee Brown

    1. I believe that the Consensus Historians have a better argument than the Progressive Historians. I think that they’re argument saying that the AR wasn’t a complete revolution is accurate because we didn’t overthrow the government. The progressives make a good point but ultimately i really agree with the consensus historians.

    2. I’d say that Zinn had mostly progressive ideas and points. He believed that the rich had more control than the poor did in the American Revolution. He talked a lot about how differences in class played a big roll in the Revolution which is a very progressive idea. He also talks a lot about old versus new ideas and change versus not change, too, which is also a progressive standpoint. But I mostly recognize that Zinn is a progressive because of the way he talks about class division and rich vs. poor.

    3. I can see that there is more to history than just dates, facts and events and that there is more to be learned than just names and years with history. I think that history is all about how we interpret it and some things are more meaningful to us than others but not every person is going to find meaning in the same events. I believe that knowing history and understanding it are two different things. By knowing history you know dates, facts, and events. By understanding it you know consequences and what it means on a larger scale than so and so won this war.

  20. Alex Cooper

    1. To me, I think that the Consensus group seems to have the more persuasive argument about how to view the American Revolution. They make more sense, and they actually explain some of the reasons as to why the American colonists left Britain in the first place. At first, they didn’t even want to start a war to get their independence, they were just trying to get everything back to how it was during the time of salutary neglect. When this didn’t happen that is why the American Revolution started because the British just kept taxing them and tried to control the colonists so much even though they were thousands of miles away.
    2. I would have to say that Howard Zinn would fit in with the Progressives. Although he could be considered to be in the middle of the two choices, I think that because of all the times he mentions things such as rich versus poor, or new versus old ideas he is a Progressive. The Progressives said that the American Revolution erupted because of the economic and social inequalities, and that is exactly what Zinn talks about and seems to mean when he compares rich to poor etc.
    3. I don’t think that history should just be defined as just facts, dates, and people. Even though when we read a textbook in our time period now it does seem to be just words in a book, there were actual people hundreds of years ago who did these events that we read about for a certain reason. We can only imagine how they felt emotionally, but they actually went through these events. History can be taken in any way possible, and it could still be considered right. It’s something that will never happen again and it’s useful to learn about it because it is part of what shaped us to where we are today.

  21. Cierra Mc

    1. The side that seems to have the more persuasive argument about how to view the American Revolution would be the Progressives. I feel that the Progressives stated why the AR erupted, stating that because of “economic and social inequalities endured by the poor and underprivileged”. I just feel the Progressives really goes into more detail of why, better than the consensus because although they are sharing and expressing their view on it, they didn’t even consider it to be a true revolution. I feel that a Revolution involves a big change in power or the structure of a system. It can be a complete change or something that simplifies it. So if the American “Revolution” wasn’t that, I don’t what is.

    2.I feel that Howard Zinn does seem to fit into the progressive party. I think that Zinn seems to take sides more with the poor. (More on the Liberal side) I feel that Howard Zinn does have a few points as to why the American Revolution occurred, including the belief that having social classes had something to do with the AR. I feel that the voices of the poor was not heard or not heard enough, and it feels kind of in a way that Zinn was trying to speak for them, and due to the social differences it made a contribution the AR.

    3.First of all, I never really thought of when I considered history, now of course with history comes facts, dates, and important people but I feel there is definitely more that comes with it. I feel a lot times when speaking of history as it relates to people is its usually told about the main people, rarely do I hear about events that happened and the “underdog” or people not being heard get that much attention. History comes with feelings to me, a lot of things because of emotion and how people felt about things. History is past events, and that’s how I like to look at it as past events, things that we should look back on, learn from them and keep it moving, not looking back on the past and certainly not repeating it. This quote for me by Livy (Titus Livius) really sums it up for me and I definitely do agree with. “The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and through, to avoid.” I think that just shows how I said before that in history its easy source in what not to do again.

  22. Erick Dagenais

    I believe that the Consensus historians have a more persuasive argument because it glorifies Americans more than the Progressive’s argument. I think that Colonists fighting for the independence of a growing, developing democracy that would preserve the rights of Americans sounds more heroic than Colonists fighting because they thought the British created social inequalities in the colonies. And it makes more sense that they were fighting purely for independence because no one likes to be bossed around or controlled by someone. People want to live life their own way; they don’t want a country on the other side of the Atlantic ocean telling them what to do. I don’t think they really wanted change in society and their lifestyles, I think it was more for them to just say that they were their own country.
    I think that Zinn falls under the progressive historians’ way of thinking. He believes that the unfair treatment of the Americans by the British government, the social equalities and the taxes that caused many families to go into poverty is what caused the colonists to revolt. He thinks that a real revolution happened: Americans rejected the British way of life and wanted to change how society was run.
    I think history is a little more than just a bunch of dates, events, and people. There is always some reason why something would happen, why someone was chosen as a leader, and why it happened on one day and not another. History is also something to learn lessons from. Societies that exist today still exist because they worked. But some, like the Ottoman Empire, fell because of flaws and because its neighbors progressed and became stronger. We can take these failed societies and learn from them by not making the same mistake they did in the past. By looking at history, we know what works and what doesn’t. When our time becomes the past, the future will be learning from our mistakes.

  23. Jake Rzeppa

    1. Today, when one considers the differences between the Unites States and England such things as funny accents, bad teeth, the Queen, and some odd words come to mind, but aside from diction and pop culture, there isn’t much of a significant difference. Both England and the U.S are first world countries with large economies, democratic system of government, and ethnically diverse populations. It could be seen as odd, for two countries that are about 3,000 miles apart, to share so many similarities! Its only 4000 miles or so from the California Coast to Japan, but we don’t share nearly as many similarities with the Japanese as we do with England. That’s because America wasn’t settled by the Japanese (DUH) it was settled by Englishmen. Who brought their English language, their religion, and their ethics and values with them, so it only followers that they would bring their politics with as well. So there was nothing original, or “revolutionary about the colonist’s demand for “rights like trial by jury, free speech, petition, and assembly as well as no taxation without representation.” I agree with Conservative Historians. Due to the policies of Salutary Neglect the colonist’s became an entity unto itself, no longer a satellite to England, but they still had their roots wrapped tightly around concepts and ideals that have their origins in England. So it was not an idealistic revolution, like that of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a more accurate word for what happened would be “schism” but the “Schism War” really doesn’t really catch on as well as “Revolutionary War”. What the Consensus Historians say is clearly seen today in how we share so much with England.
    2. I think that Zinn could easily fall in line with the Progressive way of thinking. Zinn is obsessed with the interactions of the social classes, and always sides with the lower classes he believes to be constantly being oppressed by a scheming upper class. The Progressives look at the socio-economic factors in the war, which is the same as Zinn. However, I do think Zinn would agree that there was nothing really revolutionary about the Revolutionary War. He would agree that it was a fight to maintain, or retrieve “rights” that had only recently been infringed upon.
    3. I don’t think History was ever just “facts, dates, and people”, History is the way we interpret facts, dates, and people. History is all a matter of perspective. This blog and blog show us differing perspectives on the same event. History is like looking at a painting that, from one angle and distance you could say, with confidence, is of a duck, but, from a different angle and distance, actually is a rabbit’s head. So, is the painting of a duck or a rabbit? The answer to the to this question, lies somewhere in the middle. “There are three sides to every story, your side, my side, and then theirs what really happened.

  24. Michael Nona

    1. I think the Progressive side has a more accurate and persuasive argument than the consensus because it shows the grievances of the lower class. The lower class was the driving force of the American Revolution. They believed that they were being shafted by the British and they wouldn’t stand for it. Even if it wasn’t the case, in history the poor blame the rich for their problems more often than not. The same thing happened in the colonies. So many had no power and no rights and they finally felt it was their time so they took it. Zinn told us that the rich redirected anger on the British and it worked.

    2. The progressive movement fits Zinn like a glove. They both agree that the anger of the lower class was extremely important and that it was a driving force of the AR. Zinn spoke of the revolution of the poor and the rich used this fury against the British Empire. It worked out for the wealthy perfectly. They could keep their money and get rid of the biggest power besides them, the King.

    3. I think that dates and facts are only a small part of history. I have learned many fascinating things from history. I you can learn things that don’t seem relevant but then one day you remember that little tid-bit of information and it can help you may be in school or somewhere else. A good part of history is borings, memorizing who did what and when. That part of history isn’t interesting until you think about it. All too often it’s just that, memorization, but we need to look into it to realize what life was like back then. Overall I think that history is interesting when you have the right perspective but without perspective it’s just boring memorization.

  25. Evan Daykin

    In terms of the american revolution, I would have to agree with the side of consensus historians. The Revolution wasn’t so much an uprising as it was a battle to uphold the lifestyle Americans had during the period of salutary neglect. It would be great if the progressive viewpoint of the little guy rising up were true, but post-revolution, there was little change in social classes. During the Cold war, the whole here-comes-america mentality may have had something to do with today’s view, but in the larger scheme of things, it just romanticized a more accurate, more moderate point of view.

    2. Howard Zinn, oddly enough, fits in the left-middle end of the spectrum- he believed that it was a class war, although it didn’t really change much. Harking back to Chapter 1 of PHOTUS, he frequently, if not always, viewed history from the point of view of the oppressed, and at some points, the “oppressed”– this lead me to believe that he would take a progressive David-and-goliath view of the revolution.

    3. History is not just about Dates and people. If all we did was take a shallow view of history (aka what happened), Studying it would be completely pointless– how would it do any good to know about the Boston tea party, for example, if you didn’t analyze what it meant in the broader scheme of history, even up to the present. what gives history meaning is thinking about the interpretation of the effects of these events and people, and the questions of “why did this really happen?”, or even going into “what if?” scenarios. History only has meaning if you give it meaning.

  26. willy thompson

    1. I think that the Consensus historians have a better view on the American Revolution. Most colonists viewed themselves as independent from the British before the actual Declaration of Independence was written. The Consensus historians thought that it wasn’t a real revolution, as there was no real government overthrowing involved. It seems to me that it shouldn’t be called the American revolution, but rather the American Attachment, which the Consensus people thought of. Democracy was practiced in a few colonies, such as the town meetings in New England. Establishing a new system of government after being neglected for so long doesn’t seem to me like a revolution.
    2. I think that Howard Zinn fits more into the socio-economic historians because of the way that he really mentions the different economic divisions in America and how each one wanted different things from the American Revolution. He talked about how the rich kind of dominated the poor and manipulated their hot passions against the English to push themselves into political power. However, from my memory of Tyranny is Tyranny, he doesn’t really mention the middle class in reference to the American Revolution.
    3. After reading this blog and the handouts we got, I can’t look at history as just facts and dates. There is always a different side to any story in history, and as they say, the winners write the history books. There is never going to be a completely un-biased history book, because background info leading up to the writing will affect opinions, even in the slightest. To get a completely true account of history, every person in the world needs to write a diary every day for the use of future historians. Having an account of the Revolutionary War through the eyes of Thomas Jefferson is going to be biased towards the US.

  27. Indya Sanders

    1. The Consensus Historians has more of a persuasive argument to view the American Revolution than the Progressives. The Progressive view might be what the people from the past were trying to accomplish. But the Consensus view is what ultimately happened. The Consensus has a better argument in my opinion because if you look at pre-war class issues and post-war class issues, they are the same but in different years. The rich were still getting richer and poor were still becoming poorer. The Colonist was just trying to keep things how they were. The Colonist did not want higher taxes, they didn’t want the changes in trade, and they did not want additional army. This reasoning for leaving Britain is more rational and understanding to both parties of the war. Consensus in my opinion is gives a more valid reason for the war. Maybe it is because they had time to look back at the situation and then document history.
    2. I don’t know what group to put Howard Zinn in. I think he leans more to the Socio-Economic Historians because his views favor the underdog of whatever story it is. But then some of his comments favor both sides of that part of history. He sees both sides of the war or battle and why they chose what side and why.
    3. No, you cannot define History as just facts, dates, and places. History in my opinion is more than just facts, dates, and places, history is more of vantage points. History is a series of different people’s perception of that time period meshed together. For instance if we only heard one person’s view on a story we won’t get the whole truth, we would only get part of the truth. Unfortunately the majority of people who tell a story are somewhat biased. But if we get a few people’s vantage point we can document history by getting all the sides of the event.

  28. molly Sovran

    1. The Progressive side seems to have a more persuasive argument because what they are saying actually makes sense. There was a revolution, and it was the poor acting out because they couldn’t pay for the taxes, especially since it was paying for the debt from Britain’s part in The Seven Year’s War. They can also back this up by the rebellions that went on, like the Boston Tea Party and the Paxton Boys and their rebellion. We can also look at the Boston Massacre and how they colonists were unhappy, and so they started taunting the British troops. It was getting feisty in America, and they wanted to be free from the mother country.

    2. Howard Zinn seems to fit in the first group, the Progressives. In his chapter, Tyranny vs. Tyranny, he states that the Americans became restless and very poor and the merchants were hit hard because they couldn’t sell anything besides British goods, and the colonists liked their Dutch goods etc. It was becoming very hard to live in America because there were riots and rebellions. Howard Zinn confuses me though because I will think he’s pro-one way and then I read something and he goes on rants and then I think he’s the opposite way. I don’t like Howard Zinn all that much.

    3. Personally, history is so much more than dates and important people. It is hard to understand history because you don’t know what was actually going through their heads. Maybe they wanted you to believe one thing, but they did something else. We will never really know and it is hard to decode what each person meant. History to me is so fascinating because I love to think, what if we didn’t get out independence from Britain for example, what our lives would be like today. It’s hard to think if there was really a Revolution, or if there wasn’t, all we know is that one happened and they happened for set reasons. Maybe we can argue the reasons it happened, but all in all we got our independence from Britain.

  29. Katia Lev

    1. I think that the Consensus side seems to have the most persuasive argument about how to view the AR because it makes more sense for Americans to fight for maintaining their rights vs. having a radical class struggle. Secondly, the idea that there was a large class struggle and the poor were fighting to gain their own freedoms didn’t really happen. The majority of Americans, whether rich or poor, were fighting more for maintaining their basic rights rather than submit to England.
    2. Although I feel like Zinn does a good job of attempting to portray both sides of history, I think he tends to fall under the category of a Progressive historian. Many of the excerpts we read from his writing portrays him as writing about the issues between classes, whether having to do with the war or on other topics altogether.
    3. I definitely think that history is more than just facts, dates and people. What many people don’t understand is that history is written by the winners. The people who conquer are then the ones who stay in that area and create a culture, based upon the stories passed down through generations of these people. The original stories, however, were told by a person who had his own opinions on the stories he was telling. For example, the different history textbook that is taught in Texas high schools. The version of history in that text book tells a story from a southern state’s point of view, which is completely different from that of a northern state, such as Michigan. This extends to versions of history written by other countries as well; for example, Russian history classes teach completely different versions of the Cold War, and World War II than the history lessons given to American students. Depending on which culture generated in what are, you can tell different sides of the same story from different parts of the same country. If aliens landed on Earth and wanted to find out our history for some reason, they would only get really confused if they asked a random grouping of 15 countries because there would be so many differences between the different versions.

  30. Autumn Palmer

    1. I think the consensus side has a more persuasive way to view the American Revolution because of the hard concrete facts. A revolution is defined as overthrowing a government, but the British Government still exists, so we did not get rid of the government. Also, we got many of our principles based off the British government because it was the one we were the most familiar with. So technically it could not literally be called a revolution. I think they called it a revolution (back then) to get people more excited about fighting in the war. It’s not as patriotic to tell people we are going to pull away from Great Britain but still adopt all their principles, as we are going to start a revolution.
    2. I think Zinn is part of the progressive side of the AR history. His writings encourage us to look from the point of view of the victim, and in the readings we have done he stresses the major changes that the Americans believed they wanted to install. Zinn also, however, takes a view from the others side and says that there were many similarities between the new American Government and the British government. So in reality he is split between two ideas that can both be well supported.
    3. History is not just dates, facts, and people. It all depends on the viewpoint of the people at the time. When history is written during the time that it is happening, it is easy to stick strongly to one side. But when history is written later on, historians can stand back and look at both sides of the conflict and come up with a general consensus. For example, as Americans, we see the revolution as breaking away from England and gaining freedom, but the British see it as another territory lost in the long history of the British empire.

  31. Katie Donnellon

    I think that the consensus has a stronger view because the colonists were fine until the British stepped in after so much time ignoring them and imposed taxes. The Colonists weren’t trying to break away from the mother country until they started the revolution. They tried really hard to just resolve the conflicts. Also, there were a lot of loyalists in the colonies who didn’t want to go to war with England. They only decided to go to war when England wouldn’t compromise and give them home rule, and the colonists didn’t think that it was fair for parliament to tax them when they don’t have representation in parliament and they don’t get to vote for the members of parliament.
    Howard Zinn would probably be a part of the progressives because he saw the revolution as the elites controlling the poor. He thought that the rebellious feeling among the poor was directed to England by the elites.
    History isn’t just about the people and the facts because if it were then everyone would see it the same. There would be no differences in opinion between time periods. History is defined by how it is perceived because what people formulate their opinions based upon the experiences that they have had. Like the progressives who see thing from the viewpoint of people living when the middle class had it hard which is reflected in their opinion of the Revolution, as a class struggle. The consensus was people that thought they didn’t really fight the war, and they wrote during the cold war where they never fought any battles.

  32. Ophelie Ovize

    1. I think the progressives have a more persuasive opinion. We learned that the lower class were being dominated by the higher classes and that it was creating conflict in the colonies. Also King George III was not the nicest when It came to taxes and injustices towards the colonies. They all agreed though on the fact that they disliked that they did not choose who was on the parliament. The revolution was a reaction to all of this. I disagree with the consensus idea because the colonies was really fighting to be independent. Sure they did not live on same land and fought directly with the government but they still managed to do that a little over seas. They fought for their freedom like any other revolution.
    2. I am not sure what Howard Zinn’s viewpoint is really. I am more lenient of the idea that he is a progressive because he talks a lot about how the rich created a perfect strategy to convince the poor to rebel against the brits. But in general Zinn always gives arguments for both sides. I like when authors do that, it leaves the lectors the choice of opinion.
    3. I remember when I was younger when I would go to the museum and I would look up to all those war paintings and wonder who was who and what they were doing there. Now that I am studying history I understand one thing. History is something everyone shares. It continues everyday. And everyday, there are new interpretations of everything. When Ben Laden was shot many people discussed this matter and retailed the story a bit differently. We can say the same for each event. For the American Revolution we can discuss on whether or not it was a real revolution or just a phony war. You made me understand this more when we did the Wall street protestors and the tea party protestors. Anyone can learn the names of the famous men in each war and the dates of each continental congress but understanding and having an opinion on it is just as important.

  33. Stephanie Dudek

    I think that the Consensus side has more of a persuasive argument. This might be because this is the side I was taught and grew up with but it seems to be the side that has more evidence to support it. Maybe that is only because it is the popular or better known argument. When you look at America and the colonies before and after the Revolution the argument that best capture how things were and why they were like that is the Consensus argument. Not a whole lot changed except for the fact they were now their own country and had to establish a permanent government and create a constitution.
    Howard Zinn fits into these arguments on more of the socio-economic side. Although it is hard to completely get rid of the consensus reasoning and support, Zinn seems to want to bring attention to other reasons why the American Revolution happened. He also seems to blame more of the gap between rich/poor and their dynamic and not the issues with Britain/colonies is the reason for the revolution and eventual split. That view makes me feel that he is leaning more toward the socio-economic side.
    History does include something other than facts, dates, and names. But the basic structure, I think, of how we should learn and approach history are the facts, dates, and names. After we understand what occurred, when it occurred, and who was involved then we can add the other things. Reasons/motivation, stories of average people who stood up against an injustice, and our own personal experiences also add to our knowledge and understanding of history. We cannot limit our knowledge of history to either side. There will also always be different opinions of why thing happen and how they affect us now but we wouldn’t be humans if we all believed the exact same thing. Plus while whatever event in this case the American Revolution was occurring there were probably different reasons and effects for different people involved.


    1. I think the Consensus historians made a more convincing argument, basically because I agree with it. The Progressives weren’t convincing enough to make me change my opinion, so that brought me to the conclusion that the Consensus historians were more convincing. As the Progressives pointed out, there were some class differences, but I mainly think that the colonies were fighting for their rights and liberties against British tyranny. The class issue seems to be a little more of a stretch for people to believe than that they wanted their rights.
    2. I can’t really decide which side Zinn fits into. He does a really good job of presenting more than one idea on a topic, so I’d say he’s a mix of both. Specifically in “Tyranny is Tyranny”, I’d say he has more of a Progressive lean because he relates everything to class and economic issues, and what roles the classes played.
    3. History is just facts, dates, and people. Everything about it is at least a fact, because it did happen. And most of these facts involve people on a certain date. I’ll still always see it as that way, but reading the articles and doing this blog has made me think that you can read more into it. There are different interpretations of different events, like the American Revolution. There’s stories and interpretations to be made about the facts, dates and people that transform history into something more. Actually, the John Adams video really helped me see that. It lead me to believe that “Massacre” is a pretty inaccurate way to describe that event. It also caused me to think a lot more about it. I always just assumed it was The British’s fault, but there was more to it once you examined It closer. If you take the time to really think about it, history can be more than it seems.

  35. Erin Lammers

    1. I think the progressive side seems to have a more persuasive argument about the American Revolution, though it’s a bit of a toss-up. Inter-colonial class struggles played a part, but economy did as well, which is what the conservative historians don’t take into account. You also had to look at the time period in which key believers of each theory were writing; during the early twentieth century, the progressives were surrounded by big corporations oppressing their workers, which was reminiscent of George III. The consensus believers, however, were writing in a climate of war and social injustice, a new minority without rights around every corner. They were comparing their current situation to an imminent war with a fearsome foe and the nonexistent rights of certain citizens because of their social status.

    2. Howard Zinn could potentially fit into both categories, but he definitely seems like more of a progressive. He talks a lot about the way social issues waged their own war on the home front, but he focuses on the economy, which is what most colonists cared about. Maybe the poorer people were concerned with America’s population becoming like Britain’s, in terms of a structured social order, but the more well-off people just cared about staying afloat economically without Britain’s help.

    3. History cannot have a clear-cut definition; it’s most definitely not just a jumble of ancient facts. History is the telling of the past, both in general and in the most specific sense you can imagine. It shows what nations and people have done, including accomplishments and atrocities, and can even foreshadow the future if you know what to look for. We can better understand the evolving world around us if we take a second to grasp some of its background. People repeat history often enough, and that’s with knowing what’s happened in the past; it’s unimaginable to think of what would happen without that knowledge. In a way, history is like the scrapbook of the world.

  36. Jenny Richter

    1. I think that the Consensus side has a more persuasive argument. I got the impression from the history of the Revolution that I’ve learned in this class or in some other classes that the colonists had mainly protested the interruption of their salutary neglect. It suited them rather well because they could follow their own almost democratic system and they were profiting. When things began to change in ways that they didn’t like or approve of, that’s when they got upset. They seemed angrier about the principle of things than the actual application of them. There may have been a few more opportunities at the end of the Revolution, but I think that for the most part the status quo was maintained, which is the whole point of the Consensus side.
    2. I definitely got the feeling that Zinn was for the socio-economical side because he talked for pages and pages about the class struggles and how the upper class were skillfully manipulation the lower class for their own purposes. However, I feel like he made a Consensus point or two; I got the impression that he didn’t see the Revolution as an enormous upheaval or that the lower class benefited greatly from the change.
    3. History is nowhere near just facts, dates, and people, although it would be much simpler if it was. The views, perceptions, and events going on as the people are writing this history influences how they see it. I’ve never thought of history as a biased subject because facts seem so clear cut, but depending on who is writing it, when they’re writing it, and what side they’re on, the result can be startlingly different. Which brings up the difficult question: who’s telling the truth? Which account is correct? And while we can speculate about it, we can never know for sure.

    P.S. I was rocking out to the historical version of Too Late to Apologize while I was writing this blog. Just thought you ought to know.

    (editor’s note: AWESOME!)

  37. Riley Landgraf 4th hour

    1. I think the consensus side has a more persuasive argument about how to view the American Revolution over the progressives. I think this because it gives a better view and logical view of why we became independent from Britain. It makes sense that the colonists used their previous information and lifestyles to create the foundation of America because without that knowledge we would have had to make more mistakes to get to where we are and slow down the process of history and probably change it. It also gives a more positive view that more people would like to hear. Opposed to hearing that we were greedy and wanted more power and money.
    2. Howard Zinn seems to be on the socio-economic side of the historians. He said that the battle between the rich and poor was to blame for the issues of America at that time and that the greediness and ambitiousness of the wealthy was the reason we went in to the American Revolution.
    3. I think history is not just facts, dates and people. I think history is based on facts, dates and people but in between the evidence is the authors or public’s opinion on the event or time period. I think this because when you read articles and stories about history there are certain words people use that the readers brain will give a positive or negative connotation to. For example when an author is talking about a president they like they might use words like monumental, achieved, and great. But when talking about a president they might not like they will not use these words and be more bland when talking about them and just stating the facts which gives us two different feelings to these two different people. So I guess what I am saying is history is more of a feeling or reaction to past events and the people associated with them rather than just facts, dates and people.

  38. Samuel Kepes

    I think the second group, conservative historians, has the more persuasive and better argument. The socio-economic historians’ idea is a good one, but I don’t think it could possibly have ended with the Americans winning. The middle and lower class were very upset, but I don’t they could have possibly won the war all by themselves. They needed the strong upper class, which is included in the second group of historians’ idea. It makes sense, that as a whole the revolution wasn’t truly a revolution as compared to what has been seen in other countries. The upper class had been in power for a decent amount of time at that point, and as soon as the crown began to demand power back they became upset. This could certainly be a reason for them beginning their own “revolution”.

    2. I think Zinn leans toward the socio-economic historians’ view. He explains in detail about the brilliance of the upper class and there manipulation of the lower class. The lower classes were very upset, and the wealthy, who wanted to stay in power, managed to point their anger at the crown. This move was smart by the wealthy and in the end benefited the lower class because some were able to become richer in the process.

    3. I never saw history as just facts, dates, and people. History to me is about real life situations that happened that we now can look at and pick apart all of the mistakes and triumphs of others. This blog, and whole chapter, has defiantly helped me view the revolution in a new way. I still will call it the revolution, but I wouldn’t think of it as a revolution, more one group of people on power getting sick of another power. This part is something that can only be understood, not really taught.

  39. david Bellefleur

    1. the consensus side makes much more sense and I agree with that one. The progressive side talked about how the war was strongly influenced by things like class warfare, when it was not. I always thought the main reason was taxation without representation. The consensus talked about how they wanted their living style the same, but break away from the tyranny and rule of Britain. They wanted their own rights and their own leaders, the progressives kept saying how the poor or lower class was mad at all the taxes and laws. When the upper class was the one that led the revolution and ended up ruling the country.
    2. Zinn totally fits into the socio-Economic historians. He said that the revolution started with the class differences. The differences in class were differences in wealth, and he thought that though it looked like the wealthy were leading the poor into battle, they were just using their power to make them fight the British. I guess that is why the wealthy ended up leading, like John Adams and George Washington.
    3. I don’t think history can only be seen as just dates and facts. The reason that we study history is so that we can learn from it. If you want to look at history from the viewpoint that you just want to know what happened, then sure, it is people, time periods, and facts. But history is meant to teach. It is used so that we don’t make the same mistakes. History can be 5 minutes ago, so you cut someone off and they rear-ended you, that is a learning experience. Skeptics look at history as just boring people and what old powdered wig-men did. We should all look at things like the American Revolution as symbols are lessons for how we live, stand up to wrong government, be your own man, or stuff like that- AMurica, freedom, guns, and cheeseburgers.

  40. Eli Sherman

    1) The consensus point of view is definitely the most persuasive argument and it also makes the most sense. During the period of salutary neglect, the colonists essentially recreated the government that they had come to know and love when they were back in England. They specifically chose this type of government rather than a new government because they liked the rights the English government provided and simply preferred to not be involved in the tyranny that came along with the existence of a monarchy. The consensus view is also evident when the before and after of the revolution are studied. If you look at the colonies around the end of salutary neglect and then fast-forward to around 1800 (after the country had settled down post revolution), the basis of the governments and societies in general of these two time periods is very similar.
    2) I think Zinn fits into the socio-economic category of historians. Instead of focusing on history as a whole and how a single event or a series of events affected the outcome of history, Zinn studies things like the people of history. He chooses to write on the struggles of the lower class or the the persecuted so in a way that profiles who we were as Americans and where we’ve come from. Additionally, Zinn, in his writing, frequently makes arguments that are centered on the conflict amongst peoples of different backgrounds.
    3) I think history is definitely more than just dates, facts, and people. When we study history we are looking at an living breathing story of who we are as humans. We can trace ourselves back to a different time and not only learn from our mistakes (as the cliche goes) but also gain a better understanding of why we are the way we are. We learn about why we all speak English instead of French. We learn where the ideas of paying taxes to support others (who are too lazy to work for themselves) through welfare came from. We learn where the ideas of a democracy come from and the roots of the earliest democracies. These are but a few examples of the multitude of things that we can learn to gain a great insight into ourselves because history isn’t just about the past. It is also about the present and the future.

  41. Eleanor Chalifoux

    Both arguments are very understandable. I wouldn’t be surprised if one was found to be truer than the other. The progressives believed that the American Revolution was caused by the colonists feeling underprivileged and that’s why they felt the need to breakaway. That definitely makes sense because many colonists felt that they were being treated unfairly. The consensus groups of historians (conservatives) also have a point because after the American Revolution nothing really changed, they had adopted the English system.

    I think Howard Zinn fits more into the Progressive theory. In his stuff that we’ve read he talks a lot about class struggle and how the wealthy were in control of most aspects of government. By going through with the revolution both groups profited, the rich profited more of course.

    History is definitely more than just facts, dates and people. Those things all tied together tell a story and explain our roots. When studying for tests it’s easy to just focus on the facts like what happened when and who did it but that gets you nowhere. Taking time to learn why those things happened and the reasons behind them is not only more valuable but is more interesting as well. I know I have an awful memory so memorizing dates is not an easy thing for me to do but remembering that the Continental Congress was in reaction to the Intolerable Acts which was punishment from the British after the Boston Tea Party and failed acts is much easier for me and I understand the content a lot better. It’s hard to take the time and study those things and commit them to memory but in the long run it’s a lot better than cramming and just trying to memorize years for the test that you will forget within a day.

  42. Jacob Seid

    In answer to number one, I think that both arguments are easy to perceive (to some degree). I think that there is a chance that one argument could be more valid than the other. It’s a gut feeling for me. On one hand, the progressives believed the American revolution was the result of underprivileged colonists who felt so deprived that they must venture off on their own. I think that after what we have learned, it is highly understandable because the colonists were feeling as if they were being mistreated. Another good point is that of the conservatives. This is because nothing in day to day life had changed after the revolution and the english system had been adopted in the society.

    In answer to number two, I think that in the case of zinn, especially being a historian, would be impartial or in the “middle”. I think that zinn had, for the most part, pretty liberal views which, in my mind, makes sense for him being a progressive. I think depending on the way that one looks at Zinn, the answers can differ.

    In answer to number three, I think that history is more than just a study of past events and human affairs. I think that history, the more in depth the historians get into the history, reveals emotions and intense feelings along with the corresponding facts, dates and people. I think the definition for history– the whole series of past events connected with someone or something– doesnt really cover the emotional powers that history can evoke. I think the definition for history is just a definition. not an in depth analysis on feelings and history and all the effects it has had on people back in that time, or today. Basically, I Just think the dictionary definition defines what the general act of history is. Like the history on the computer. It just shows you the sites you visited– not whether or not those sites made you sad, happy, excited, bored or angry.

  43. Alexandre Rochaix

    1. I believe that the consensus side has the more logical answer. Any time in history no one has ever decided to risk their lives and future just to protest something that displeased them. To really motivate someone takes something of real disturbance, that throws your life into havoc and into a completely new lifestyle. One consistent behavior of the human race is its dislike for change. Its logical because humans would die if we continuously changed sides or methods of eating a food, because we rarely ever be using the right method. Humans are naturaly change resistant because it takes a good and beneficial reason for them to change. For the colonist in this case, i like the consensus side because they proposed that the colonists were thrown completely off balance by this new style of paying taxes and being overruled by a foreign power. 200 years of freedom is a long time, and after that amount of time people feel like they are being invaded! They feel as if they are being bullied by a country that they would rather use but not be bothered by. Them just wanting back the way things were fits with human nature and the consensus version.

    2. I see Howard as leaning towards the socio-economic viewpoint while holding a fragile balance between the consensus and other views. He talks about the rich oppressing the poor all the time, but then moves to a ideology and liberty viewpoint, such as Tyranny is Tyranny. To me he leans instead of falls into the socecon type because he likes to write about economics more than other viewpoints as reasons why.

    3. After reading this handout i define history as facts-dates-people,and the interactions between them. The only history we care about is the one abut humans as a whole, so ignoring how this massive group of people got along is penultimate to the people themselves and how they affected our world.

  44. Sarah Szekely

    1. I think that the Consensus historians seem to have a stronger argument. I’ve always believed like everyone else that the American Revolution was always a valiant effort to earn our own country and epically cut ties with the mother country for peace and justice for all and that was always the goal, however, as I read about the AR I didn’t think that was the case at all as all evidence with every tax and attempt points in an effort to keep things the way they always were. (Ex: The Olive Branch Petition) So as I read about historiography I find myself agreeing as a whole with the Consensus historians.
    2. Although at some times with Zinn the line between Progressive and Consensus thins, I think that Zinn was a bit more progressive. If you read a few of the other chapters of his book he always seems to take to the victims side of view a bit more, and a lot of what he discusses, including chapter 4, is about the poor and their struggle with the rich.
    3. I actually really used to think that’s all history always was. I thought it was really boring. (Of course at the time we were studying the industrial revolution which in my opinion isn’t a very interesting topic). But when I started APUSH the year, I began to get more into it. As I was reading I suddenly realized that these were actually people and these things actually happened. It’s a silly thing to realize because it’s always been true, but when I realized this I got more into the why and how and it wasn’t just trying to memorize facts anymore. History when you think about is learning from others past mistakes and also understanding why we are the way we are in the world today and why everything affected things the way they did. I didn’t really realize this before, but when I did, I actually started to enjoy the subject just a bit more.

  45. Emily Novick

    1. I think that the Consensus side is more legit because colonists weren’t really trying to change a whole lot. They were just trying to keep it real like when the British were all like “We’re going to salutarily neglect you!” The colonists just wanted to get back to that, from what I’ve learned, they weren’t trying to create some communist revolution or something. The colonists were clapping their hands (because they were happy…and they knew it) while the British left them alone. They only started getting PMS after the British came in and tried to make them do stuff like pay taxes to them, and drink only English tea. That’s when the colonists shouted their war cries of “English pigdogs” and calling troops “silly English kiiimmmmmmmmiggots pppthbbbt” So yeah, that’s why the Consensus people had a more legit argument.

    2. Zinn focused a lot on the lower guys and the workers. He went through a big description of this in one of the packets we had to read. He’s hard to categorize because he has aspects of both. He focuses a lot of the economy and the riffs between the social groups quite a bit so I’ll have to say he’s more of a progressive, but not by much.

    3. History isn’t just facts dates and people. It will always have a different human perspective. Like if two people got in a fight and had to tell the principal their story, they would have the same dates, facts, and people, but one might say that the punch they threw wasn’t that hard, while the other person said it was. Things that can’t be measured, like how much that punch really hurt, can only be examined to a certain extent. At some point there will be a bias. For instance, if I wrote a history book, I might perceive the effect of Flobots on the world a bit differently than other people. From my perspective it most certainly seems that Flobots had a big impact, but other people might not have had a chance to listen to their pure awesomeness and their history book will be void of Flobots.

  46. Tharron Combs

    I think that the Progressives have a better argument because there are numerous instances of the rebellions, created through alliances between the poor and the middle-class merchants, which the Progressives see as similar incidents to the American Revolution. The Paxton Boy’s rebellion, the Regulators of North Carolina, Bacon’s Rebellion and the 18 uprisings after it are some of the exponents of these merchant and poor alliances, and it seems to me that there are just too many events where the merchants and poor allied for the Progressives to be wrong.

    Howard Zinn, based on his article “The War for Independence Was Not a Social Revolution”, seems to fit squarely into the Consensus group, but taking into account his entire body of writing he would seem to fit into the Progressive group. The views expressed in “The War for Independence Was Not a Social Revolution” seem peculiar to me because so far I have seen most of Zinn’s views as being biased far to the left, such as this excerpt from “The People Speak”; “The history of any country presented as the history of a family conceals fierce conflicts of interest. And in such a world of conflict-a world of victims and executioners, it is the JOB of thinking people, NOT to be on the side of the executioners.” This article expresses opinions that would be more associated with Progressive historians that the conservative Consensus group that his views on the AR would lead you to believe he belongs to.

    History, the way that it is taught at the elementary level, is reduced to a series of facts, dates, and people that must be memorized for the next 20-point vocab quiz. History, the way that happened, the way that it should be taught, is a very long and very complex story in which there are many dynamic characters that made decisions that were right and decisions that were wrong at different times because they were human beings. It is engrossing, it is intriguing, and it is the furthest thing possible from a series of facts, dates, and people.

    P.S. I too was jammin’ to old school Too Late to Apologize while writing this blog.

    (editor’s note: swag) (real editor’s note: I have no idea what swag means).

  47. Andrew Hausman

    1. I think that conservative consensus historians have a more realistic perspective on the American Revolution. Progressive historians can point to revolts by the poor of society, but it is difficult to prove that these led to the outbreak of the Revolution. Meanwhile, consensus historians have more solid evidence of what life was like before 1763, making it easier to indicate that colonists only sought to return to their old way of life. However, I tend to agree most with Gordon S. Wood’s new interpretation. This might be due to me living in a world more similar to Gordon Wood than either the progressive or consensus historians. He states that the Revolution was not caused by class differences, but still resulted in a social upheaval. There were fundamental differences in society after British rule had been removed, but yet the desire for this change did not lead to the war. Consensus historians could argue that colonists desired to reestablish the status quo, but nevertheless, they transformed society in doing so.
    2. Based on the chapter taken out of Howard Zinn’s book, it would seem as if he would be considered a socio-economic historian, in terms of the historiography of the American Revolution. He consistently brought up examples of lower class revolt and how the middle class radicals harnessed the poor masses’ anger against Britain. However, his description of the uprising is titled, “The War for Independence was Not a Social Revolution” (Unfortunately, the link to it does not work). In this case, he would fit into the consensus historian view. In terms of the title of his work, he does not believe that society was transformed. Rather, revolutionaries fought to maintain the status quo.
    3. History can more accurately be defined as the analysis and examination of facts, dates, and people and their significance. There is no neutral view of what happened. Rather, how people interpret what occurred is what becomes known as history.

  48. Denny Walsh

    1. I think that the consensus view has a better argument about how to view the American Revolution. This is because the Progressive view has very little concrete evidence to back it up. It is possible that there was somewhat of a gap between the rich and the poor at the time of the revolution, but the idea that that was what fueled the revolution doesn’t quite add up; partly because the gap between rich and poor didn’t seem to decrease after the revolution and many Americans were actually further in debt afterwards due to high costs of the war effort. This being said, what seems to make the most sense? I would argue that the traditional idea that this country was founded by great men not for themselves or the people of their time necessarily, but for the future generations to enjoy. This is the traditional consensus argument that I believe seems to make more sense given that very few people actually benefited directly from the war.
    2. I think that Howard Zinn fits into the category of the progressives. He thought that, like the progressives thought, The American Revolution was caused by the disparity between the rich and the poor. He seemed to follow the progressive idea that the American Revolution was entirely fueled by economic differences and that everyone was just looking for some way to better their own situation and that the wealthy did this by attempting to use the poor to spark revolution. Although it is slightly different, it is mostly what the progressive historians believe.
    3. You cannot define history as just facts, dates, and people and you never accurately could. History is a combination of these things along with what the general mood of what living in the time period itself was like, which includes how the little lesser viewed people felt. I do not mean to discredit the importance of some of the historical facts and people, but I am just saying that that is not all there is to history.

  49. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    I think the Progressives seem to have the more persuasive argument about how to view the American Revolution because I don’t think that the American colonists were just trying to maintain the existing social order—the belief held by the Consensus historians. I side with the Progressives because, from what I’ve read between this blog, Howard Zinn’s chapter 4, and the American Pageant, the majority of the population in the American colonies isn’t happy at ALL with the present social and economic order; the majority of the revolution was more disputes between social classes (the poor and middle class vs. the rich) than against the British. However, the American leaders of that time (i.e. Sam Adams, among many others) were very good at redirecting lower class resentment at the British as opposed to the rich Americans. I have to side with the Progressives because the Consensus view seems flawed in that regard.

    I would classify Howard Zinn as a progressive because he too, in our chapter 4 reading, focused on class hatred, and on the nationalist elites deflecting hatred from them onto the British. For instance, in Zinn’s chapter 4 he talks about when poor, land-hungry farmers would turn against the rich landlords—and often to the British for help—the wealthy nationalist elites adopted policies to win over people in the countryside. This sides with the Progressive argument that the American Revolution erupted because of economic and social inequalities, and therefore I believe Howard Zinn belongs in this category.

    This blog emphasizes that history isn’t so much just facts, dates, and people, because there are so many different ways that the information can be interpreted. The facts are all put in front of us, but even still we will never fully understand what the BELIEFS were behind everything that happened. Facts can be logged and passed down to us from centuries before us, but we can’t know what they were feeling. On the first link alone there were well over 5 different interpretations of the American Revolution—and the worst part about it is that we can never know for sure! 🙁


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