Archives: Videos

1774: The Long Year of Revolution

Mary Beth Norton
March 5, 2020

Mary Beth Norton, the Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emerita of American History at Cornell University, discusses her new book analyzing the revolutionary change that took place between December 1773 and April 1775—from the Boston Tea Party and the first Continental Congress to the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Drawing extensively on pamphlets, newspapers and personal […]

Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution

T. Cole Jones
February 27, 2020

T. Cole Jones, assistant professor of history at Purdue University, discusses his book examining the ways the revolutionary generation dealt with the more than seventeen thousand enemy soldiers captured during the war. The number of enemy prisoners in American custody often exceeded that of American soldiers in the Continental Army. These prisoners proved increasingly burdensome […]

American Veterans through Two Centuries

Robert L. Wilkie, Jr., Jack Warren, Brian Matthew Jordan, Stephen R. Ortiz and Miranda Summers Lowe
November 11, 2019

For Veterans Day in 2019, the Institute presents an examination of the experiences of American veterans since the revolutionary generation, held in conjunction with the exhibition America’s First Veterans. The program opens with remarks from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie, Jr., followed by a panel discussion moderated by the Institute’s executive director, Jack […]

Louis XVI and the War of American Independence

John Hardman
October 25, 2019

Professor John Hardman, former lecturer in modern history at the University of Edinburgh and biographer of King Louis XVI, presents the 2019 George Rogers Clark Lecture on the king’s decision to support the American War for Independence. Louis, he argues, possessed sharp political insight and talent in foreign policy. Why did he choose war? Could […]

The American Revolution and the French Military Enlightenment

Christy Pichichero
October 10, 2019

Christy Pichichero, associate professor at George Mason University and the 2015 Tyree-Lamb Fellow of the American Revolution Institute, discusses her work on war and the Enlightenment in the context of French experiences during the American Revolution. French officers such as the marquis de Chastellux and the comte de Rochambeau—whose memoirs are a part of the […]

The Road to Charleston: Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution

John Buchanan
May 30, 2019

Historian John Buchanan discusses his long-awaited sequel to The Road to Guilford Courthouse that brings the story of the war in the South to its dramatic conclusion. Nathanael Greene’s Southern Campaign was the most difficult of the war. With a supply line stretching hundreds of miles northward, it revealed much about the crucial military art […]

Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life

Albert Louis Zambone
May 6, 2019

Author and historian Albert Zambone discusses his book, Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life. Dr. Zambone speaks about the decisions that shaped Daniel Morgan, a homeless, illiterate teenage laborer who, with ambition, determination and a great deal of luck, became a landowner, congressman and one of America’s greatest battlefield commanders. Video courtesy of C-SPAN’s American History […]

Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West, 1765-1776

Patrick Spero
December 13, 2018

The American Revolution was shaped by clashing ideas about the future of the West and who should control it. As the Stamp Act riled eastern seaports, frontiersmen clashed with the British Empire over another issue: Indian relations. When British officials launched a risky diplomatic expedition into Pennsylvania’s Allegheny frontier to open trade with the Indian […]

A Portrait of American Loyalist James DeLancey

Emily Schulz Parsons
November 16, 2018

Portraits of American loyalists depicted in the uniforms they wore when they fought against the patriot cause are rare. Emily Parsons discusses a recently acquired oil painting of Colonel James DeLancey of Westchester County, New York, who led several loyalist cavalry and infantry units during the war. Attributed to itinerant artist John Durand, the portrait was […]

Battlefield Clean-up during the American War of Independence

Robert Selig
October 30, 2018

Battlefield clean-up is a topic rarely covered by modern historians. However, following almost any military engagement, corpses need to be buried. Who disposed of these corpses and how can we tell who buried whom? Were officers and other ranks buried together or separate? Dr. Robert Selig, historian, answers these and related questions about burying the dead […]

The American Revolution on the Spanish Borderlands

Kathleen DuVal
October 26, 2018

Lexington, Valley Forge and Yorktown are familiar, but few Americans have ever heard of the capture of Mobile or the Siege of Pensacola—events that were critical to the outcome of the Revolutionary War, the future of the American South and the lives of the people of the Gulf Coast. In the 2018 George Rogers Clark […]

Colonel Jeremiah Lee of Marblehead

Robert Booth
October 3, 2018

Colonel Jeremiah Lee was a fabulously wealthy colonial merchant who turned against the British Empire and became a leader of the rebel movement in Massachusetts. Historian Robert Booth brings this outspoken revolutionary to life as part of the 250th anniversary celebration of Lee’s achievements, hosted by the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati and the Marblehead […]

Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical is Restaging America’s Past

Renee C. Romano, Claire Bond Potter and 2 others
August 2, 2018

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical, has become so popular that it is being used to teach U.S. history in classrooms across the country. But just how historically accurate is Hamilton? And how is the show itself making history? In this panel discussion, four historians addressed the Hamilton phenomenon and what it means for our understanding of […]

The Life and Times of General Andrew Pickens: Revolutionary War Hero, American Founder

Rod Andrew, Jr.
January 23, 2018

Andrew Pickens (1739–1817), the hard-fighting South Carolina militia commander of the American Revolution, was the hero of many victories against British and Loyalist forces. Rod Andrew, Jr., vividly depicts Pickens as he founds churches, acquires slaves, joins the patriot cause, and struggles over Indian territorial boundaries on the southern frontier. Combining insights from military and […]

Was the American Revolution Inevitable?

Robert Allison
October 27, 2017

The American colonies broke with the British empire in 1776, but could they remain united even as they fought in a common cause? The people in the colonies had profound differences—religious, social, political and economic—that surfaced in local communities as well as in Congress and the Continental Army. Colonists’ resistance to Great Britain magnified these […]

Brother Officers and Comrades-in-Arms: The Social Community of the Continental Army during the American Revolution

Rachel Engl
October 24, 2017

Over the course of the Revolutionary War, tens of thousands of men served in the Continental Army, many of whom formed strong friendships while fighting. Personal connections sustained men within the Continental Army and helped to open new opportunities for some in their postwar lives, while eliminating many for other men. Through diaries, letters, prescriptive […]

Martyr of the American Revolution: The Execution of Isaac Hayne, South Carolinian

C.L. Bragg
March 7, 2017

On August 4, 1781, in Charleston, South Carolina, the British army hanged Col. Isaac Hayne for treason. The death of a patriot in the cause of liberty was not a unique occurrence, but, as historian C.L. Bragg uncovers, the unusually well-documented events surrounding the execution of Hayne and the involvement of his friends and family […]

The British Empire and the Causes of the American Revolution

Andrew O'Shaughnessy
October 28, 2016

Great Britain provoked the American Revolution by pursuing increasingly authoritarian policies to centralize control over its North American colonies. These colonists, fearful of the Crown’s similarly harsh treatment of the Irish, rebelled against the tyranny that likely followed for them. Yet, not all British American colonies rebelled. Loyal subjects in the sugar-producing Caribbean islands feared […]

The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War

J. L. Bell
August 31, 2016

In the early spring of 1775, British army spies located four brass cannon belonging to Boston’s colonial militia that had gone missing months before. British general Thomas Gage drew up plans to regain the weapons, while the Massachusetts patriots prepared to thwart the general’s mission. Both sides wanted the cannons, but both wanted to keep […]

American Prisoners in the Revolutionary South

Carl P. Borick
April 19, 2016

During the Siege of Charleston in 1780, British forces under General Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot captured nearly six thousand American troops, the largest number of prisoners taken during a single operation of the Revolutionary War. Mr. Borick discusses the fates of the captured men and the role they played in the British […]

Washington’s Face: What did the Average Citizen See?

Wendy Wick Reaves
February 23, 2016

At the start of the Revolutionary War, almost any fictitious image could pass as a portrait of an American hero, but George Washington as commander-in-chief warranted extra efforts. American printmakers searched for an accurate likeness of Washington throughout the war. So what did the average farmer, frontiersman, housewife or child see of his countenance? Ms. […]

Archaeology at Parker’s Revenge

Meg Watters
December 9, 2015

On April 19, 1775, a fight later known as Parker’s Revenge broke out between the Lexington Militia, led by Captain John Parker, and the British, who were retreating to Boston after the Battles of Lexington and Concord. While the skirmish was mentioned in primary sources from the time, little is known about details such as […]

Global Migration of American Loyalists

Maya Jasanoff
November 5, 2015

At the end of the American Revolution, sixty thousand Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. Loyalists traveled to Canada, sailed for Britain, and journeyed to the Bahamas and the West Indies. Some ventured still farther afield, to Africa and India. Wherever they went, this voyage […]

American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

Maya Jasanoff
October 23, 2015

At the end of the American Revolution, sixty thousand Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. Loyalists traveled to Canada, they sailed for Britain, they journeyed to the Bahamas and the West Indies; some ventured still farther afield, to Africa and India. Wherever they went, […]

Two Narratives of the French Army’s March to Yorktown in 1781

Rachel Jirka
August 14, 2015

Ms. Jirka shares two manuscript narratives of the French army’s march to Yorktown in 1781 from the library collections of the American Revolution Institute, written by Henri-Dominique de Palys, chevalier de Montrepos, and Robert Guillaume, baron de Dillon. These narratives describe the French experience marching south from Newport, Rhode Island, and include the men’s personal […]

Oneida and Six Nations

James Kirby Martin
July 24, 2015

The Oneida nation was the only one of the Iroquois Confederacy to ally with the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Congress formally honored the Oneida in 1794 for their service to the American cause, yet over time the Oneida sacrifice faded in American memory and was eventually forgotten. Professor Martin describes their important contributions to […]

Benedict Arnold

James Kirby Martin
July 24, 2015

American general Benedict Arnold secretly conspired with the enemy to surrender West Point and George Washington. Disaster for the Americans was thwarted only when Arnold’s co-conspirator, John André, was captured with plans of the West Point fortifications in his boot. Professor Martin tells Arnold’s full story, from his childhood and support for the American cause […]

The March to Yorktown

Robert Selig
July 16, 2015

Robert Selig traces the epic 1781-1782 march of French forces under the comte de Rochambeau to and from Yorktown, alongside their American allies led by George Washington, as they traveled from Newport, Rhode Island, and West Point, New York, to Virginia in 1781 and back north to Newburgh, New York, and Boston in 1782. How […]

A Well-Regulated Militia: History of the Second Amendment

Saul Cornell
June 16, 2015

Professor Cornell delves into the complicated history and interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He argues that the amendment neither guarantees the right to own guns nor simply protects the rights of states to maintain militias—the two most common modern interpretations of the amendment. The American founders understood the right to bear […]

Youth and Military Service in the Revolutionary War

John Anthony Ruddiman
May 8, 2015

The experience of young soldiers in the Revolutionary War was shaped by their drive to achieve personal independence and autonomy. The war offered an entire generation of young men unusual opportunities for social advancement, honor and distinction, but diverted those who served from the established path through young adulthood. Presented in the inaugural Catesby Jones […]

An Empire Divided: The American Revolution in the Caribbean

Andrew O'Shaughnessy
December 4, 2014

There were twenty-six colonies, not thirteen, in British America in 1776, and the majority of the colonies outside the mainland were in the Caribbean. Even though they shared many important similarities and connections with the mainland colonies, they did not rebel. Dr. O’Shaughnessy examines the British colonies in the Caribbean during the American Revolution and […]

George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy

James Kirby Martin
October 24, 2014

Rumors of peace after Yorktown brought anxiety to soldiers in the Continental Army. Congress had not paid them for some time, and they would soon return home, many impoverished. The soldiers had sacrificed prime years of their lives in the service of their new country, and it appeared that Congress would abandon them when the […]

An Empire Divided: Revolution and the British Caribbean

Andrew O’Shaughnessy
September 26, 2014

There were twenty-six colonies, not thirteen, in British America in 1776, and the majority of the colonies outside the mainland were in the Caribbean. Even though they shared many important similarities and connections with the mainland colonies, they did not rebel. Dr. O’Shaughnessy examines the British colonies in the Caribbean during the American Revolution and […]

A Sea of Change: Naval Warfare in the American Revolution during the Spring of 1778

Dennis M. Conrad
September 24, 2014

Several important changes in the nature of naval warfare during the American Revolution occurred in the spring of 1778, including the internationalization of the naval war, an increase in the number and effectiveness of Loyalist privateers in American waters, and the questioning of the reputation of the Continental Navy and its officers by fellow Americans. […]

Lord North

Andrew O'Shaughnessy
September 24, 2014

The policies of Lord North, the British prime minister during the American Revolution, united the American colonies in rebellion. The Tea Act and the Coercive Acts solidified many colonists’ objections to what they considered British oppression. Dr. O’Shaughnessy examines the successes and failures of Lord North’s administration, which ended with his resignation six months after […]

Mel Gibson’s The Patriot: An Historian’s View

Walter Edgar
July 13, 2014

Mel Gibson’s film The Patriot, released in 2000, is a valuable teaching tool, as Professor Edgar argues in this look at its themes and accuracy. The film illustrates two important themes very well: the vicious, partisan nature of the war in the South, and the wide range of interests and ideals that motivated southerners, whether […]

The Southern Frontier in the American Revolution

Walter Edgar
May 8, 2014

The American Revolution did not begin and end in Boston. The backcountry in the South was an especially important region in the struggle for American independence. Professor Edgar examines the complicated factors that influenced the conflict in this region, including Southerners’ reactions to the Stamp Act and Townsend Duties and the political empowerment of backcountry […]

Revolutionary Transformation of Women’s Role in Society

Carol Berkin
April 10, 2014

The Revolution transformed the role of women in American society. Law and custom in colonial America reflected the idea that women were morally inferior to men. Mothers bore and nursed their infants, but the task of teaching children right from wrong fell, at least in principle, on their fathers. Professor Berkin reveals how the Revolution […]

Women Who Followed the Continental Army

Carol Berkin
April 10, 2014

In the popular imagination, men conducted the Revolutionary War and the Continental Army and its encampments were an all-male environment. Professor Berkin reveals that, in reality, women and children accompanied the army and provided important services to sustain it, including cooking and laundering. The presence of these women decreased desertion and supplied necessary labor, although, […]

African American Women and the American Revolution

Carol Berkin
April 10, 2014

African American women longed for freedom as much as anyone in revolutionary America, but few enjoyed its blessings. Liberty proved elusive, whether offered by the British or articulated by American revolutionaries. Some African American women in Virginia liberated themselves in response to Lord Dunmore’s proclamation, only to be sold back into slavery. Others fled to […]

Native American Women and the American Revolution

Carol Berkin
April 10, 2014

The American Revolution was many revolutions, argues Professor Berkin, transforming the lives of Native Americans while the colonists fought for independence. For many Native Americans, victory meant increased pressure from white settlers. Native American women shared their peoples’ struggles for independence and autonomy. Professor Berkin highlights the story of Molly Brant, a Mohawk woman who […]

Daughters of Liberty and Loyalist Women

Carol Berkin
April 9, 2014

Professor Berkin illuminates how women—both supporters of American liberty and loyalists to the Crown—participated in the Revolutionary War and the challenges they faced during the period. Patriot women maintained boycotts of imported goods, joined the army disguised as men, acted as spies, and followed the Continental Army. Loyalist women were often stripped of their property […]

The Global Tea Party

Benjamin L. Carp
April 2, 2014

The Boston Tea Party was not just a local story, Professor Carp argues, it was also a global story. The East India Company was becoming a territorial power in South Asia. Its principal import, tea, came from China and was becoming a popular drink among Europeans. These Europeans drank their tea with sugar, planted and […]

Revolutionary War Heroes in the Art of the U.S. Capitol

Farar Elliott
November 15, 2013

In the early nineteenth century, Americans searched for icons to unite them as a new nation, particularly ones that evoked civic virtue. The only symbols that the fractured and growing nation could agree on were Revolutionary War heroes. Ms. Elliott examines how the art commissioned for the Capitol, particularly paintings of George Washington, fulfilled this […]

Women in the American Revolution

Carol Berkin
October 25, 2013

The American War of Independence was a home-front war that brought scarcity, bloodshed and danger into the life of every American, women included. While men left to fight, women shouldered greater responsibility as they maintained their farms alone and tried to prevent confiscation of property. Patriot women maintained boycotts of imported goods, joined the army […]

Teapot in a Tempest: The Boston Tea Party of 1773

Benjamin L. Carp
October 24, 2013

In addition to objecting to taxation without representation, Bostonians protested the Tea Act of 1773 in part because it required them to pay a tax on top of the monopoly prices of the East India Company. They also opposed supporting the sons of the royally appointed governor who would benefit from the tax revenue. Dr. […]

Civic Virtue in Early America

Saul Cornell
August 9, 2013

Revolutionary Americans regarded civic virtue—a willingness to sacrifice personal interests for the good of the community—as vital to the preservation of republican institutions. The ideal of virtuous citizenship was rooted in classical antiquity and influenced American political thought and the art, architecture and literature that helped define the iconography of the new nation. Professor Cornell […]

From Articles of Confederation to US Constitution

Saul Cornell
August 9, 2013

After winning its independence, the new American republic faced internal threats to its survival political, economic and cultural differences resurfaced during the return to peacetime. These pressures prompted the nation’s leaders to abandon the loose confederacy formed during the Revolutionary War and embrace a more unified country under a federal constitution. Professor Cornell highlights specific […]

U.S. Constitution as the Fulfillment of the Revolution

Saul Cornell
August 9, 2013

The creation and adoption of the U.S. Constitution was a fulfillment of the American Revolution, not a conservative counterrevolution. Professor Cornell details how James Madison, known as the architect of the Constitution, arrived at his proposal for the delegates’ consideration in the Constitutional Convention. He reviewed the new nation’s problems, the literature and history of […]

The Revolutionary Challenge to Slavery

James H. Hershman, Jr.
July 3, 2013

The Revolutionary War disrupted the institution of slavery in the United States. Lord Dunmore’s 1775 proclamation in Virginia promised freedom to men enslaved by rebel masters if they would fight in the royal army. The additional social unrest provided by war made it difficult for slaveholders to retain their property, and many enslaved people liberated […]

From the Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement

James H. Hershman, Jr.
July 3, 2013

A powerful thread connects the American Revolution and the civil rights movement of the 1960s: the world-shaking proclamation of the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal” and have an undeniable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It became the centerpiece of African American political thought for the next two […]

Slavery and America’s Revolutionary Leaders

James H. Hershman, Jr.
July 3, 2013

Slavery is the great American contradiction. The independence of the United States held the promise of liberty and equal rights for all, yet the country’s founding documents permitted slavery to endure. Indeed, many of the men who wrote and signed these documents owned enslaved men and women. Professor Hershman examines eight leading revolutionaries—George Washington, John […]

The Critical Time After Yorktown

William M. Fowler, Jr.
April 5, 2013

Many people assume that the Revolutionary War ended with the surrender of the British army at Yorktown in October 1781. In fact, the war continued for two more traumatic years. During that time, the Revolution came as close to being lost as any time in the preceding six years. When Congress failed to pay the […]

Revere and Longfellow

William M. Fowler, Jr.
April 5, 2013

“Listen my children and you shall hear.” With those lines, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow began his epic poem about Paul Revere’s ride on the night of April 18, 1775. When it was first published in 1861, the poem was an immediate sensation, and it has remained in Americans’ popular memory of the Revolution ever since. Many […]

The Revolutionary War at Sea

William M. Fowler, Jr.
April 5, 2013

Battles at sea played a key role in securing American independence, even though the size and prowess of the Royal Navy dwarfed that of the nascent Continental Navy. John Paul Jones, who defeated the HMS Serapis, became the great hero of the American navy—both in his own time and to later generations of Americans. French […]

Hardships of the Continental Army

William M. Fowler, Jr.
April 5, 2013

The soldiers of the Continental Army suffered extreme hardships during the Revolutionary War. Beyond experiencing the terror of combat, the troops were chronically undersupplied. The close of the war brought further anxiety as many of the soldiers had not been paid in months or even years, and the impending disbanding of the army would send […]

The Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party

Robert J. Allison
February 21, 2013

The people of Massachusetts had more power over their own government than anyone else in the British Empire. Bitterness and resentment festered among these independent-minded colonists as the Crown raised taxes on American goods and sent soldiers to enforce the new policies. These rising tensions eventually led to outward expressions of resistance, most notably the […]

The South in the American Revolution

Walter Edgar
January 4, 2013

For the latter part of the American War of Independence, the British focused on taking control of the South. They captured Savannah and Charleston and launched a campaign to crush rebels in the Carolinas and Virginia. George Washington responded to the threat by entrusting Nathanael Greene with command the American army in the South. Greene […]

The American Revolution in the South: A Story Seldom Told

Walter Edgar
October 26, 2012

The British failed in their attempt to suppress the American Revolution in the South in 1776 but returned in 1778 to capture Savannah. In 1780 they took Charleston and launched a campaign to crush the Revolution in the Carolinas and Virginia. The war in the South—often neglected in accounts of the Revolution—involved some of the […]

Rochambeau and Lafayette

Julia Osman
July 24, 2012

The marquis de Lafayette and the comte de Rochambeau were each vital to the fight for American independence, but they took different paths to their service in the American war. Unlike most other French officers, Lafayette did not seek a position in the American army to bolster his military resume or to simply follow his […]

The Seven Years’ War

Julia Osman
July 24, 2012

Winston Churchill called the Seven Years’ War the first world war. Yet, Americans typically think of this conflict only in terms of its North American theater, where it is most often referred to as the French and Indian War. The Seven Years’ War was a much bigger conflict involving world powers France, England, Prussia, Hanover […]

Victory at Yorktown

Julia Osman
July 24, 2012

In August 1781, British commander Lord Cornwallis moved his troops to Yorktown, Virginia, hoping he could more easily receive supplies and reinforcements via the York River, near the Chesapeake Bay. Professor Osman details the events that followed, leading to the allied victory at Yorktown. The allied Franco-American forces, most under the command of the comte […]

King Louis XVI

Julia Osman
July 24, 2012

King Louis XVI’s people called him the “Liberating King” for his support of the American Revolution, so how did he end up beheaded at the guillotine? Professor Osman assesses Louis XVI’s conduct during the American and French Revolutions and how he met his downfall. The fortune he spent in support of the American War of […]

The People Debate the Constitution

Pauline Maier
October 11, 2011

The 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia closed with a difficult undertaking ahead of the delegates. The new government could only take effect if nine states ratified the proposed constitution. The men, who had met in closed sessions and exceeded the authority granted by their states, had to persuade their neighbors to adopt the suggested plan. […]