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The Will of the People: The Revolutionary…
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The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America (origineel 2020; editie 2019)

door T. H. Breen (Auteur)

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Titel:The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America
Auteurs:T. H. Breen (Auteur)
Info:Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press (2019), 272 pages
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The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America door T. H. Breen (2020)

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T. H. Breen. The Will of the People: The Revolutionary Birth of America. $29.95. 272pp, 6X9”, hardback. ISBN: 978-0674971790. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, September 17, 2019.
I misinterpreted what this book is about when I requested it. I am always interested in reading histories about revolutions because my research keeps returning to rebellions, overthrows, uprisings, sedition, libel and free speech even as I hope between geographical regions and centuries. Even if I begin researching linguistics or novel structure, it inevitably becomes impossible to explain a group of authors’ choices without covering the tensions between radical change and continuity of authoritative government. The title suggests this particular book will describe the American Revolution, and even if my current research is centered on the British Isles, understanding how and why America broke away from England would be very useful at this juncture. For example, I am studying writers in Britain from the eighteenth century that include Daniel Defoe, who was a merchant and thus heavily impacted by international trade, including the tensions that led to the American Revolution. Instead of finding research that might have solved some of the puzzle pieces I have yet to place, this book is a rhetorical anti-research project. The first clue to this is the unrevealing chapter headings, which include “Justice” and “Betrayal”, or two emotions or general concepts that do not reveal what part of the Revolution they might be alluding to. Flipping across the interior one is hit by waves of nonsense, propaganda and religious sermons. In a long section on Reverend Dan Foster, who was a “pastor for a small Connecticut congregation”, the author dives into a lecture on Christ and the Church with statements such as these: “The Jews would have the king they desired.” The question of monarchic rights is dimmed as the paragraph ponders about the Jews’ strange ideas regarding “a king supreme”. On the next page: “God did not care one way or another if the people deposed a corrupt monarch. That was their business” (60-3). While a discussion on how Christians and Jews came to accept a king’s rights in terms of what the Bible said on the matter might be relevant, the insertion of the cliché “their business” aside as well as other digressions prevents any of this from making coherent sense to readers. This type of general, lacking in evidence babbling dominates the book: “Other New Jersey communities joined the expanding effort to save the nation’s economy.” From this opening sentence, the paragraph goes on to quote from a specific county’s price-setting efforts but in a manner that fails to allow for a grasp on the point. Saving an economy can include anything from giving charity to the poor to lowering the interest rate, and yet here price-fixing is the saving tool (186)? The lack of a clear opening sentence appears to deliberately confuse readers from being able to spot this lack of congruent sense across the information lopped together in the paragraph. These types of sentences are not abnormalities but dominate the majority of the text: you can find out for yourself by opening to random pages. Thus, this is an unreadable book.
The blurb inflates the author’s standing in the first words as if aware that only be this bloating might the publisher explain why this book was chosen for publication while hundreds of coherent books were rejected. The author is labeled as a “prize-winning historian”. Meanwhile, the reasons for inserting unrelated stories about random preachers and a general lack of logical organization is explained as “introducing us to the ordinary men and women who turned a faltering rebellion against colonial rule into an unexpectedly potent and enduring revolution.” Price fixing and anti-Jewish sentiments turned the tide? “They policed their neighbors, sent troops and weapons to distant strangers committed to the same cause, and identified friends and traitors.” All of these might have been interesting to read about, but these are not the main topics of discussion in these pages. “Without their participation there would have been no victory over Great Britain, no independence. The colonial rebellion would have ended like so many others—in failure.” I am deleting a few of the repeating sentences in this summary, but these two repetitions demonstrate the author’s style across the book; the same general ideological points are repeated in slightly different phrasings without conveying historical facts to support these grand conclusions.
“In villages, towns, and cities from Georgia to New Hampshire, Americans managed local affairs, negotiated shared sacrifice, and participated in a political system in which each believed they were as good as any other.” It is mystifying how digressive historians such as this author manage to read minds to figure out what people believe not based on documented proof but on their power of deep-think. And what does superiority or inferiority of these small players have to do with what exactly they did that affected the revolution; self-confidence or lack thereof is irrelevant when it comes to launching a revolutionary war.
This book should be withdrawn from publication, rather than sold to libraries or students. If anybody has to read this book for a class, they might start a local rebellion that aims to prove they could have written a better book themselves.
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