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One of the most dominant ideas in Appleby's work is the idea of how the nation of America came to be. It is almost taken for granted, that colonists morphed into revolutionaries and then morphed into America and then into North and South. This is the dialectic that has framed the nation for some time. Appleby seeks to analyze how individuals actually moved the dialectic along or even framed it. Understanding that individuals are locked, trapped, into their time periods and cannot see past the conditions they cannot understand, she compiles evidence from personal narrative, shared understandings, and autobiographical data to examine the character of individuals who moved the nation from colony to nation- state. In the process, Appleby asserts that there must be such a condition as "American identity," as reflected in the individuals who started the revolution and those who inherited it and moved the country to an established nation -state of power.
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