A Revolutionary Roundup, January 2016

The Age of Revolution seems to be having a moment in the historical world. January 2016 is overflowing with thought-provoking debates about the state of the field and new directions for the historiography. Here is a roundup of recent summaries of some of these discussion!


Benjamin Park wrote a post on The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History

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Jordan Taylor storified the tweets from four of the five Age of Revolutions Panels at the AHA:

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1) Revolutions: The State of the Field (Chaired by David A. Bell)

“A Hemispheric Revolution? The Americas, c. 1760s-1820s, Nathan Perl-Rosenthal
“Recent Reconsiderations of the French Revolution and Its Neighbors,” Katlyn Carter
“Becoming Masters of Their Own Homes: The United Front and Nationality Autonomy on the Tibetan Plateau during the ‘Early Liberation’ Period,” Benno Ryan Weiner
“Violence, Revolution, and the End of the Cold War in the Middle East,” Paul T. Chamberlin

See also David A. Bell’s preview of this session “Renewing the Comparative Study of Revolutions,” on AHA Today

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Rewriting Revolutions, 1750-1850: New Settings, Characters, and Plots

2) Part 1: Moments and Movements (Chaired by Sarah Knott)

“War Stories: Defining the American Revolution,” Michael A. McDonnell
“Revolution and Royalism in Pacific South America, 1780-1825,” Marcela Echeverri
“This Is Not Our Fight: The Countess of Huntingdon and Transatlantic Evangelicalism during the American Revolution,” Kate Carté Engel
“The End of the Revolution?: The Haitian Declaration of Independence,” Julia Gaffield

3) Part 2: Things and Persons (Chaired by Jane Kamensky)

“Object Lessons of the Revolutionary Atlantic,” Ashli White
“The Identities of Emigration: The Circulation and Reintegration of French Revolutionary Émigrés,” Mary Ashburn Miller
“Identity Papers and Paper Nations: Making Nationality at Sea in the Revolutionary Era,” Nathan Perl-Rosenthal
“Revolutionaries Traveling between Revolutions,” Janet L. Polasky

4) Part 3: Places and Materialities (Chaired by Edward B. Rugemer)

“Frontiers and Food Systems in the Age of Revolutions,” Natale Zappia
“Freedom, Subjection, and Monarchical Sovereignty in (Post) Revolutionary Haiti,” Doris Garraway
“West Africa’s Islamic Moral Revolutions,” Bronwen Everill
“Austerity and Extraction in a Revolutionary Age,” Steven C. A. Pincus


Sarah Knott wrote an article for the William and Mary Quarterly, “Narrating the Age of Revolution.”

This article grew out of the 2014 WMQ-EMSI workshop, “The Age of Revolutions.” The “Rewriting Revolutions” series at the AHA also grew out of this workshop. The article is now available on JSTOR!

This essay offers a genealogy and diagnosis of new “situational” narratives about the age of revolutions. It grew out of a WMQ-EMSI workshop, “The Age of Revolutions,” convened at the Huntington Library in 2014. Workshop participants presented papers concerning the massive transnational transformations of the late eighteenth century that rent old regimes from the Americas to West Africa and Western Europe. The essay sets today’s historical narratives in relation to those of the revolutionary period and the mid-twentieth century and explores their “situational” form in our present. Situational narratives are marked by a heightened emphasis on place and mobility and a concern for people acting politically and locatedly (that is, from the vista of their own location). They make for new kinds of narrative interpretation and new understandings of revolution. To compose a field, the author argues, situational narratives must retheorize the condition of eventfulness, renovate understandings of politics and of freedom as a set of practices, and overcome narrative’s habit of soliloquy by developing new techniques of scholarly communality.


Bryan Banks wrote a post “Reflections on Revolutions at the AHA,” for his Blog with Cindy Ermus, Age of Revolutions: A HistorioBLOG

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Jordan Taylor expanded on his live tweeting and wrote “State of the field report from AHA 2016, Atlanta,” for the OIEAHC’s Uncommon Sense blog.

“The geographic expansiveness of these papers reflects historians’ turn away from a Eurocentric model of the Age of Revolutions (most famously articulated in Robert Palmer’s foundational two-volume The Age of the Democratic Revolution).”

About Julia Gaffield, PhD

Assistant Professor of History, Georgia State University
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