A half-century has passed since the first volume of R. R. Palmer’s Age of the Democratic Revolution (1959, followed by a second in 1964) offered a stunning treatment of the geographic reach of the American Revolution. More than any other historian of his generation, Palmer initiated the move towards an Atlantic-wide consideration of political ideology and political practice in the second half of the eighteenth century. In Palmer’s view the American Revolution, suffused with enlightened ideological energy, ‘dethroned England and set up America as a model for those seeking a better world’. In particular, he explained how Europeans cast their eyes in wonderment upon the state constitutions cobbled together during the long war with Great Britain, seeing these expressions of fundamental law as ‘the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment … put into practice’ and ‘made the actual fabric of public life among real people, in this world, now’.1 Palmer showed how key elements of American Revolutionary ideology spread — very unevenly to be sure — across the breadth of Europe and, eventually, in paler forms, to Latin America in the first half of the nineteenth century.
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- Sparks from the Altar of ’76: International Repercussions and Reconsiderations of the American Revolution
Gary B. Nash
- Macmillan Education UK
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