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Final Paper Writing Prompt
HIST 32200: The Age of the American Revolution – Final Paper Writing Prompt – Spring
2018
Historians have long debated the nature and significance of the American Revolution. Some
have argued that the years between 1763 and 1789 marked a turning point, not only in
American history, but in human history as well. Thirteen of Britain’s mainland North American
colonies declared their independence from empire and monarchy and set out on an experiment
in freedom, equality, and republican government. The result of this experiment – the United
States of America – was a beacon of liberty, democracy, and opportunity throughout the world,
and eventually rose to become one of the greatest powers on earth. To these triumphalist
scholars, the seeds of American greatness were planted in 1776.
More recently, scholars have found less to celebrate in the American Revolution. While it may
have benefitted white men, these scholars point out, the revolution held out little promise for
women, Native Americans, or enslaved and free people of color. Indeed, the political liberty of
independent republican men often relied on the continuation of domestic patriarchy, the
expropriation of indigenous peoples, and the enslavement and marginalization of hundreds of
thousands of African-descended men and women. The continuation of these forms of
unfreedom, these scholars argue, provides strong evidence that, while it may have been
transformative for some, American independence was not truly revolutionary.
Task: Your assignment is to enter into this scholarly debate, and evaluate the extent to which
the American Revolution was truly revolutionary. Each student will select ONE of the themes we
have studied this semester – gender and domestic patriarchy; Native American history; slavery
and race – and analyze the extent to which the American Revolution caused meaningful
changes in political, social, economic, and/or cultural life for your chosen group. To fully address
this question, responses must go beyond merely describing what happened to a particular
group, and use specific evidence from our shared readings to explain why certain changes
occurred while others did not, and discuss how these changes are related to broader themes,
ideas, or events in the history of the revolution.
Format: Papers should be 4-7 pages long, with a clear introduction and conclusion that lay out
a thesis statement directly addressing the task above. All papers must use relevant primary and
secondary source material from the syllabus to support their argument, and all sources must be
appropriately cited with Chicago style footnotes. (While you may consult as many sources as
you like in the paper, you MUST use at least FIVE primary source documents.) Please use
standard formatting for academic writing (12 pt. font; double spaced; 1” margins; heading with
name, class, and date).

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