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The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independenceby T H Breen
"By emphasizing the egalitarian consequences of consumption, Breen vividly tells half of the story, obscuring the equal role of inequality in the consumer revolution....Breen aptly...tells the story of common aspiration — but to the relative neglect of inequality's persistent power." Alan Taylor, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Marketplace of Revolution offers a boldly innovative interpretation of the mobilization of ordinary Americans on the eve of independence. Breen explores how colonists who came from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds managed to overcome difference and create a common cause capable of galvanizing resistance. In a richly interdisciplinary narrative that weaves insights into a changing material culture with analysis of popular political protests, Breen shows how virtual strangers managed to communicate a sense of trust that effectively united men and women long before they had established a nation. Breen argues that the colonists' shared experience as consumers in a new imperial economy afforded them the cultural resources that they needed to develop a radical strategy of political protest — the consumer boycott. Never before had a mass political movement organized itself around disruption of the marketplace. As Breen demonstrates communal rituals of shared sacrifice provided an effective means to educate and energize a dispersed populace. The boycott movement — the signature of American resistance--invited colonists traditionally excluded from formal political processes to voice their opinions about liberty and rights within a revolutionary marketplace, an open, raucous public forum that defined itself around subscription lists passed door-to-door, voluntary associations, street protests, destruction of imported British goods, and incendiary newspaper exchanges. The Marketplace of Revolution explains how at a moment of political crisis Americans gave political meaning to the pursuit of happiness and learned how to make goods speak to power.
"The author of this profoundly important book achieves what most historians only dream of. He propels forward to a new stage of understanding a subject — the origins of the American Revolution — that is large, complex and vexed by controversy." Publishers Weekly
"This interesting work offers an original perspective and some provocative conclusions." Jay Freeman, Booklist
T.H. Breen offers an innovative interpretation of the American Revolution as driven by the colonists' shared experience as consumers in an imperial economy, which led them to develop a radical strategy of political protest--the consumer boycott.
About the Author
T.H. Breen is William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University. An authority on the culture and politics of the early Atlantic World, he has written six major books, including Tobacco Culture and Imagining the Past.
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