The American Revolution

american revolution

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 republican system of government.

The American Revolution had a profound effect on modern history. It challenged the authority and absolutism of European monarchies. It created a system of government based on Enlightenment principles like republicanism, popular sovereignty and the separation of powers.

The American Revolution also showed that revolutions could succeed and allow ordinary people to govern themselves. Its ideas inspired the French Revolution (1789) and 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.

A rapid revolution

The story of the American Revolution is one of rapid changes and developments. Before the 1760s, the 13 British colonies in North America had enjoyed decades of economic prosperity and good relations with their mother country. Most American colonists were loyal Britons, happy to be subjects of a benevolent British king rather than the vassals of a foreign tyrant.

That a revolution could unfold in this environment seemed unthinkable – and yet it did. During the mid 1760s, colonial loyalty and affection for Britain was tested by disagreements over government policies and taxes. Within a decade, American farmers were arming themselves with muskets and pitchforks to march against British troops at Lexington, Massachusetts.

By mid 1776, American leaders considered their bonds with Britain so irreparably broken that they voted for independence. But American independence brought with it new challenges: a war with Britain, the world’s preeminent military power, and the need for a new system of government. The solutions they crafted have shaped our own political systems worldwide.

Online resources

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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