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Sep 13, 2016

How are we to understand the political thought of the American Revolution? One view - which is very much familiar - was that the patriots who made the Revolution were fundamentally radical Whigs whose great preoccupation was the terror of crown power and executive corruption. A rather different interpretation states that for many of the most important patriots this view was the wrong way round, and that they were rebels in favour of royal power, who wanted more monarchy rather than less, as their complaint was with the tyrannical Parliament. In this lecture, Eric Nelson assesses this second view, and shows that by the early 1770s appeals to the Whig ancient constitution had become quite rare in patriot writing, and by the end of the decade many patriots had assumed a completely different understanding of the feudal past, one pioneered by royalist historians of the 17th century, and then adopted by Scottish historians of the 18th century.