War Stories: Rethinking the American Revolution

When:5 May 2015, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Venue:Morven Brown 209 (map ref C20)
Who:Associate Professor Mike McDonnell, University of Sydney
Michael A. McDonnell

History Seminar Series


The triumphalist narrative of the American Revolution as a founding moment has distorted and obscured the history of late eighteenth-century North America. Stories of the founding shape not just popular ideas of this period, but also the research agenda of historians. The stories we tell and the courses we teach are invariably wedded to explaining the creation of a nation. One important downside of this orientation is that we fail to come to grips with the violence and trauma of the War for American Independence and its legacy among the people who lived through it. This paper will explore alternate ‘war stories’ told by some of the less well-known participants. An examination of neglected Revolutionary war memoirs forces us to take the war and its effects more seriously and suggests that we might more accurately frame this period as an American tragedy.

About Michael A. McDonnell

Michael A. McDonnell is Associate Professor in the Department of History. This past year he has finally finished his work on the Anishinaabeg Ottawa, modestly entitled Masters of Empire: The Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America (Hill and Wang, forthcoming, Dec 2015), and has with some relief returned to the scene of his first crime, the American Revolution. This paper is a preliminary effort to make sense of the Revolutionary war memoirs that he stumbled across while starting to write a very different book on SSP last year.

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