Study questions--Wood reading:




1) How does Wood explain the concept of radicalism as it should be understood when explaining the American
revolution? (Chapter 1)
2) What are some examples of the connections and similarities held by colonists to England and its monarchy outlined by Wood in the first chapter.
3) Wood writes that in order to understand the radicalism of the Revolution one needs to understand the class distinctions before it. Why is that?
4) What is a good model that can be used in describing the relation a subject had to the king?
5) How does Wood explain the institution of slavery and servitude fitting into the general societal framework of pre revolutionary America? (pg.53)
6) What was an essential element that was needed in pre revolutionary America in order to gain socially mobility?
7) What are some of the factors identified by Wood as to contributing to the political instability of colonial life? (pg.121)
8) Over time, Wood says that hierarchical traditions may have taken root in America had not there been two major factors to impede the process. What were they?
9) According to Wood, in what sense was Revolution really revolutionary?


Study Questions on The Radicalism of the American Revolution-Gordon Wood

Submitted by Kenneth Deane


Comment on Wood’s argument, asserted in the introduction, that the American Revolution can not properly be analyzed by applying modern historical concepts such as class antagonism and economic determinism. 

How does Wood’s thesis that the American Revolution was a radical social upheaval compare with Bailyn’s thesis that the revolution was primarily a conservative political event? 

Given Wood’s description of the fluidity of colonial society in the 1760’s and 1770’s (the large increase in immigration, the transitory nature of the population, the development of paper money and the growth of internal commerce) does he overplay his description of the dependent, monarchical nature of colonial society, outlined in the first part of the book. 

According to Wood pre revolutionary colonial society was held together by a sense of mutual dependency: tenant farmers were dependent on their landlords; landlords were dependent on royal functionaries and royal functionaries were dependent on the king and his courtiers. What social principles did the revolution’s leaders envision as serving as the binding social agent once the monarchical principle was overthrown. 

How was it that economic prosperity rather than oppression and poverty fueled the American Revolution? 

How did the new thinking about the composition of the family and its relationships reflect changes in the way the colonists viewed their relationship to government and to the mother country, Britain. In Wood’s view how did the new liberal attitude towards parental authority loosen the bonds of political authority in the colonies in the late 1770’s?  

How did modern contract theory change the relationship that the colonists had with the king? How did it change the paternalist vision of the King-subject relationship? 

What were the implications of the contract theory of government? How did it undermine the patriarchal theory of government? 

Comment on Wood’s statement that the revolution was a war between patriots and courtiers.

Comment on Wood’s statement that the post-revolutionary struggle was between democrats and aristocrats. 

How did the notion of “equality” undermine the revolutionary leaders’ vision of a republic of virtue? 

How were the ideals of the revolution corrupted? What does, Wood mean when he writes that the revolution was the source of its own contradictions? 

In Wood's view what accounted for the revolutionary leaders’ disappointment and disillusionment with the outcome of their revolution.