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Thread: RIP Bernard Bailyn, the premier thinker on the life of the people on pre-independence

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    RIP Bernard Bailyn, the premier thinker on the life of the people on pre-independence

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Bailyn


    Major themes and ideas[edit]


    Bailyn's dissertation and first publications dealt with New England merchants. He argued that international commerce was an uncertain business, given the high risk of losses at sea in the very long turnaround times meant that information was often too old to be useful. Merchants reduced the uncertainty by pooling their resources, especially with marriages to other merchant families, and placing their kinfolk as trusted agents in London and other foreign ports.
    International commerce became a chief means of growing rich in colonial Massachusetts. However, there was an ongoing tension between the entrepreneurial spirit on the one hand and traditional Puritan culture on the other. The world of merchants became an engine of social change, undermining the isolationism, scholasticism, and religious zeal of the Puritan leadership. Bailyn pointed the younger generation of historians away from Puritan theology and toward broader social and economic forces. Bailyn expanded his research to the social structure of Virginia, showing how its leadership class was transformed in the 1660s. Like Edmund Morgan at Brown University and Yale, Bailyn emphasized the multiple roles of the family in the colonial social system.[7]
    Bailyn is known for meticulous research and for interpretations that sometimes challenge the conventional wisdom, especially those dealing with the causes and effects of the American Revolution. In his most influential work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bailyn analyzed pre-Revolutionary political pamphlets to show that colonists believed the British intended to establish a tyrannical state that would abridge the historical British rights. He thus argued that the Revolutionary rhetoric of liberty and freedom was not simply propagandistic but rather central to their understanding of the situation. This evidence was used to displace Charles A. Beard's theory, then the dominant understanding of the American Revolution, that the American Revolution was primarily a matter of class warfare and that the rhetoric of liberty was meaningless. Bailyn maintained that ideology was ingrained in the revolutionaries, an attitude he said exemplified the "transforming radicalism of the American Revolution."[8]
    Bailyn argued that republicanism was at the core of the values French radical thinkers had striven to affirm. He located the intellectual sources of the American Revolution within a broader British political framework, explaining how English country Whig ideas about civic virtue, corruption, ancient rights, and fear of autocracy were, in the colonies, transformed into the ideology of republicanism.
    According to Bailyn,
    The modernization of American Politics and government during and after the Revolution took the form of a sudden, radical realization of the program that had first been fully set forth by the opposition intelligentsia ... in the reign of George the First. Where the English opposition, forcing its way against a complacent social and political order, had only striven and dreamed, Americans driven by the same aspirations but living in a society in many ways modern, and now released politically, could suddenly act. Where the French opposition had vainly agitated for partial reforms ... American leaders moved swiftly and with little social disruption to implement systematically the outermost possibilities of the whole range of radically libertarian ideas. In the process they ... infused into American political culture ... the major themes of eighteenth-century radical libertarianism brought to realization here. The first is the belief that power is evil, a necessity perhaps but an evil necessity; that it is infinitely corrupting; and that it must be controlled, limited, restricted in every way compatible with a minimum of civil order. Written constitutions; the separation of powers; bill of rights; limitations on executives, on legislatures, and courts; restrictions on the right to coerce and wage war—all express the profound distrust of power that lies at the ideological heart of the American Revolution and that has remained with us as a permanent legacy ever after.[9]

    Bailyn's approach to the constellation of Whig ideas is artfully diachronic rather than
    structural; that is, contested libertarian meanings change through time as "the
    colonists" struggle to define, and to pursue, the property of independence. Recent
    historians, such as Tufts University wiki-skeptic and CUNY professor Benjamin Carp,
    hold that more than any other "colonist," Boston waterfront rebels channeled their
    "cosmopolitanism into a belief that 'the cause of America' was a libertarian 'cause
    for all mankind'" (Carp, Rebels Rising, 61).
    "One problem with people who have no vices is that they're pretty sure to have some annoying virtues."


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    Re: RIP Bernard Bailyn, the premier thinker on the life of the people on pre-independ

    Always interesting how we can view history through different ideological lenses. I'm not dismissing this but I don't know if the difference between the Crown and the British East India company is worth parsing.

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    Re: RIP Bernard Bailyn, the premier thinker on the life of the people on pre-independ

    Quote Originally Posted by Rojo View Post
    Always interesting how we can view history through different ideological lenses. I'm not dismissing this but I don't know if the difference between the Crown and the British East India company is worth parsing.
    Because it's history, understanding it in the context of the time is always the goal, which can never be fully achieved. Those like myself, who have a thirst for understanding, find the search itself worth every bit of the effort, and applaud those who have a similar thirst for understanding.
    Last edited by Kingspoint; 08-11-2020 at 10:55 PM.
    "One problem with people who have no vices is that they're pretty sure to have some annoying virtues."


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