1776 and us: Finding the founding in a foundering democracy
From the very beginning, the history and study of the American Revolution has been bound up with the national identity of the United States, and thus with the country’s present needs.
In recent years, the competing imperatives of activists and journalists at both edges of our ideological spectrum have produced warring narratives of the American founding: slavery versus liberty, original sin versus germinal gift, a conclave of villains versus garden of heroes. Both of these approaches owe more to politics than to history.
As we approach the quarter-millennium mark, how can we equip ourselves and our students with an understanding of the revolutionary era that is rigorous, complex and above all, true to the evidence? Harvard University Professor Jane Kamensky shares her perspective on the topic as part of the 2022-23 The Civic Discourse Project lecture series.