What are the main points of the book Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer?Points that are crucial to understanding this book. Major events that happened in the American Revolution. Names of...

What are the main points of the book Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer?

Points that are crucial to understanding this book. Major events that happened in the American Revolution. Names of significant people, places, documents, and why these are important.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Among the main points of the book Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer, are the following (as outlined by Fischer himself in his introduction to the book):

  • Britons tend to be ignorant of the story of Revere, even though it is well known to many Americans.
  • In Hackett’s own words,

Ambiguity is an important part of the legend of Paul Revere, and a key to its continuing vitality.

  • Even though the story is often repeated, especially to children, tellers of the story tell it in various ways and are not sure which parts of it are true.
  • Some students of the story like to celebrate it, while others like to debunk it.
  • Partly for both of the reasons just mentioned, the story of Revere’s ride has influenced many later works, including books, films, and even pieces of music.
  • Yet professional historians have paid surprisingly little attention to the story.
  • Partly this neglect by historians is due to a disdain for popular history.
  • Partly the neglect of the story by historians has resulted from disdain for simple patriotism.
  • Partly the neglect of the story by historians has resulted from a general neglect of narrative history of all sorts.
  • The neglect of Revere’s story is a symptom of larger shortcomings in the contemporary study of history by professional historians.
  • The focus of Hackett’s book is therefore on “contingent” events – that is, events that might have developed differently in any number of ways.  “Contingent” events are by definition unpredictable.
  • One central focus of the book is Paul Revere, who has not received the attention he deserves.
  • Another central focus of the book is General Thomas Gage, the British commander, who has tended to be neglected on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • In Hackett’s opinion, Gage was

truly a tragic figure, a good and decent man who was undone by his virtues.

  • Gage played a very important but overlooked role in shaping Britain’s policies toward America and thus in helping to foment the American rebellion.
  • One function of the book is to examine the cultural contexts in which Revere and Gage acted.
  • For Americans of Revere’s generation, Revere’s ride was recalled as a highly significant event.
  • The words Revere and Gage used to describe their values were often highly similar, despite the conflict between these two figures.
  • Despite the similar language Revere and Gage used, their real values differed greatly.
  • Revere’s values differed from our own, even though he used language that we still use today to describe our own (significantly different) values.
  • Revere believed in

ordered freedom, which gave heavy weight to collective rights and individual responsibilities – more so than is given by our modern calculus of individual rights and collective responsibilities.

  • These are just a few of the points Hackett makes about his own book in the introduction to that volume.
Sources:

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