The Radicalism of the American Revolution Questions and Answers
by Gordon S. Wood

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What time period does The Radicalism of the American Revolution cover?

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Although The Radicalism of the American Revolution is about the American Revolution, it does not limit itself to the time period when the Revolutionary War was actually going on.  Instead, it starts its analysis long before the fighting began and it continues its examination well after the time when the United States became a country.  This book covers the time period from at least the 1760s until the 1820s.  It is hard to identify the exact starting point of the book because it discusses many aspects of early colonial life that are not tied to specific dates.

The book begins by discussing American colonial society.  Wood is trying to argue that American colonial society was much more hierarchical than people tend to think it was.  He wants to make this argument because he says that the Revolution changed the society from a hierarchical one in colonial times to a much more egalitarian one by the 1820s. In order to do this, he has to show that the American colonies had a hierarchical society.  In his discussion of American colonial society, Wood goes back beyond the 1760s, saying things like (p. 18)

Royal authority never seemed more acceptable and impressive to the colonists than at mid-century…

He also discusses such things as the “ancient warning-out regulations” of the New England towns (p. 20) without specifying when those regulations started to be law.  Thus, we can see that Wood’s book covers a time period extending back at least to the middle of the 18th century.

To look at the aftermath of the Revolution, Wood extends the book well past the end of the Revolutionary War.  He wants to show how the United States became more and more egalitarian over the course of its early years.  For example, he tells us on p. 270 that the

New York Republicans of 1820 could only gaze in amazement at the Federalists inability to comprehend the new society they lived in.

This shows us that Wood is looking at a time period that continues at least until the 1820s.

So, this book covers a time period that stretches at least from the mid-1700s until the 1820s.

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