J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Conference on Bailyn’s Ideological Origins, 21 Apr.

On 20-21 April, Yale University’s Center for Historical Inquiry & the Social Sciences will host a conference, co-sponsored by the U.S.C.–Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute on Ideological Origins at 50: Power, Rights, and the Rise and Fall of Free States.”

In 1967 Bernard Bailyn published The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. It won a Pulitzer Prize the following year and heavily influenced the next generation of scholarship on the Revolution.

Bailyn’s analysis grew out of his work assembling and synthesizing Pamphlets of the American Revolution, a compendium of the public political debate in the Revolutionary era. He highlighted the recurring themes and arguments of those pamphlets.

Of course, that methodology rested on the belief that the explicit political discussion was significant—more significant than the economic factors or the “consensus” that previous cohorts of historians had emphasized. The book produced the name of the “ideological school” of historiography about the Revolution, also labeled the “neo-Whig” or “republican” school. Other scholars pushed back against that approach at the time and since.

The conference will begin with an opening lecture by Bailyn himself. Now in his nineties, he’s a rare example of an author who can address the fiftieth anniversary of a major mature work.

The other speakers will be:
  • Danielle Allen, Harvard University
  • Patrice Higonnet, Harvard University
  • Daniel Hulsebosch, New York University
  • Colin Kidd, University of St. Andrews
  • Peter Mancall, University of Southern California
  • Eric Nelson, Harvard University
  • Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University
  • Steven Pincus, Yale University
  • Jack Rakove, Stanford University
  • Eric Slauter, University of Chicago
  • Gordon Wood, Brown University
Some commenters have noted how this line-up hearkens back to the period when Bailyn wrote his book, with men far outnumbering women. Does that reflect one of the drawbacks of the “ideological” approach—its focus on the class of people empowered to participate in published debate?

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