Explores how politicians, screenwriters, activists, biographers, jurists, museum professionals, and reenactors portray the American Revolution.
The American Revolution is all around us. It is pictured as big as billboards and as small as postage stamps, evoked in political campaigns and car advertising campaigns, relived in museums and revised in computer games. As the nation’s founding moment, the American Revolution serves as a source of powerful founding myths, and remains the most accessible and most contested event in US history: more than any other, it stands as a proxy for how Americans perceive the nation’s aspirations. Americans’ increased fascination with the Revolution over the past
two decades represents more than interest in the past. It’s also a site to work out the present, and the future. What
are we using the Revolution to debate?
In Fighting over the Founders, Andrew M. Schocket explores how politicians, screenwriters, activists, biographers, jurists, museum professionals, and reenactors portray the American Revolution. Identifying competing “essentialist” and “organicist” interpretations of the American Revolution, Schocket shows how today’s memories of the American Revolution reveal Americans' conflicted ideas about class, about race, and about gender—as well as the nature of history itself. Fighting over the Founders plumbs our views of the past and the present, and illuminates our ideas of what United States means to its citizens in the new millennium.
List of Illustrations ix
1 Truths That Are Not Self-Evident: The Revolution in Political Speech 17
2 We Have Not Yet Begun to Write: Historians and Founders Chic 49
3 We the Tourists: The Revolution at Museums and Historical Sites 85
4 Give Me Liberty’s Kids: How the Revolution Has Been Televised and Filmed 125
5 To Re-create a More Perfect Union: Originalism, the Tea Party, and Reenactors 165
Further Readings 213
About the Author 253
"The book is most insightful when Schocket leaves aside his two categories and listens to what the American Revolution means to guides and visitors at historical sites, public television producers, and Revolutionary War reenactors. They all seek an emotional connection to this heritage and long to be inspired by it, while being aware that representations of the past can never do full justice to its complexity." ~The Journal of American History
"In dealing with historic sites the tension between representing a complex history and satisfying sponsors and the public is richly conveyed. Schocket also brings out the problematic black experience at these sites, including the often thin representation of their Revolution, the racial imbalance in visitors of the sites, and the persistence of employment disparity." ~U.S. Studies Online
"This book looks in-depth at how [the Founding Fathers] have been used by a variety of forces and takes a wide lens to see the views, goals, and how people use history to their advantage...This is an interesting book because it looks at the present day while talking about people and events over two hundred years old." ~San Francisco Book Review
"[Fighting Over the Founders] is an important and provocative book.The book stands out among its peers in the field of American Revolution memory studies both because of its currency and because of Schockets innovative approach." ~The American Historian
"Afast-paced, often insightful, sometimes funny book aimed at the general reader. This is a subject of crucial importance to our understanding of American national identity."Schocket's book . . .will appeal to all readers with an interest in the contemporary meaning of the American founding" ~The Historian
"Fighting over the Foundersis divided into cross-sections, each approaching different parts of our national culture, groups which alternately revere, recreate, and research the Revolution's legacy... Fighting over the Founders, thankfully, turns the page away from the crass exploitation of the framers' legacies, toward a new understanding." ~Public Books
"Schockets book will rightly become a must-read for specialists in the American Revolution and the early Republic, as well as for those engaged with understanding how history can become a way of entry into national self-understanding. His sharp-eyed approach to historic sites, museums, and parks and to such films asThe PatriotandNational Treasure...is particularly perceptive and enlightening." ~American Political Thought
"Schocket distinguishes between & essentialists who see the founders as demigods and who emphasize the founders belief in private property and Protestantism, and & organicists, who believe Americans are still in the process of trying to complete the Revolution. Covering the years since 2000, the book analyzes presidential speeches and debates as well as best-selling books, popular movies, and historic sites." ~Trend & Tradition