The American Revolution began in the mid 1760s as a rebellion of British colonists living along the eastern seaboard of North America. It ended in 1789 with the creation of a new nation, underpinned by a written constitution and a new system of government. The American Revolution had a profound effect on modern history. It challenged and undermined the absolutist power of European monarchies. It created a functioning government based on Enlightenment principles like republicanism, popular sovereignty and the separation of powers. The American Revolution showed that revolutions could succeed and that ordinary people could govern themselves. Its ideas and examples inspired the French Revolution (1789) and many later nationalist and independence movements. Most signficantly, the American Revolution gave birth to the United States, a nation whose political values, economic strength and military power have shaped and defined the modern world.
The story of the American Revolution is one of rapid changes and developments. Before the 1760s the 13 colonies enjoyed decades of economic prosperity and good relations with Britain. Most American colonists considered themselves loyal Britons; they were happy to be subjects of a wise and benevolent British king, rather than the slaves and vassals of some foreign tyrant. That a revolution could unfold in this environment seemed unthinkable – but unfold it did. During the mid 1760s colonial loyalty and affection for Britain was tested by a seemingly benign issue: disagreements and debates over government policies and taxes. A decade later, American farmers armed themselves with muskets and pitchforks and marched into battle against British troops at Lexington, Massachusetts. By mid 1776 American politicians considered the bonds with Britain so irreparably broken that they voted for independence. But American independence brought with it two challenges: a war with Britain, the world’s preeminent military power, and the need for a new system of government. The story of the American Revolution between 1775 and 1789 is the story of how those challenges were addressed.
Alpha History’s American Revolution website contains hundreds of primary and secondary sources to help you understand events in America between 1763 and 1789. Our topic pages, written by experienced teachers and historians, provide concise summaries of key events and issues. They are supported by reference material like timelines, glossaries, biographical profiles, concept maps, quotations, historiography and profiles of prominent historians. Our website also contains a range of online activities such as crosswords and multiple choice quizzes, where you can test and revise your understanding of America in revolution.
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