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The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution

At this point, then, examination of the two historians' methodology must come to the fore. Bailyn's Ideological Origins draws almost exclusively on original source materials. Letters, pamphlets and newspapers from the period are the raw materials from which he paraphrases the contemporary dialogue and draws his conclusions. In this, it might be admitted, Bailyn courts the danger of self-deception: theoretically drawing a "pure" conclusion from the words of colonial writers who could not look on their own era from the vantage point of the future, is it not possible that the historian himself cannot avoid imposing some latter-day "filtering" of their thoughts through his own, wider perspective? Without accusing Bailyn's study of this, the possibility of its occurring must always be considered.

Countryman, in fact, apparently believes that it is just this inability to separate the historian's thought from historical fact that must be addressed. To rectify this situation, the research approach of The American Revolution embraces a wide spectrum of historical sources - from original materials to two hundred years of historians' writings - readily acknowledging the often contradictory appearance of an historical event when presented in the context of different eras and philosophies. Indeed, Countryman aims to make these contradictions the cornerstone of his thesis: rather than seek an overriding wave of thought coursing through the period under examination, he takes care to point out the differences in colonial sentiment.

Reaching, of course, the conclusion of his thesis: that there was no overriding consensus of thought that made the final outcome of the American Revolution, the Constitution and the form of government it e


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The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:26, August 17, 2017, from
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