Modern Historians Confront the American Revolution

3 01 2007

The historian must be more than a chronicler, a mere lister of events. For his real task is discovering and setting forth the causal connections between events in human history, the complex chain of human purposes, choices, and consequences over time that have shaped the fate of mankind. Investigating the causes of such a portentous event as the American Revolution is more, then, than a mere listing of preceding occurrences; for the historian must weigh the causal significance of these factors, and select those of overriding importance.

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The Anarcho-Statists of Spain

31 12 2006

The Spanish fascists used barbaric methods throughout the Spanish Civil War in order to establish a brutal dictatorship.[1] The Spanish Communists used similar wartime measures in their failed effort to give birth to an even more totalitarian regime.[2] But many discussions of the Spanish Civil War overlook, minimize, or apologize for the atrocious behavior and tyrannical aspirations of perhaps the most powerful faction of the Spanish Republicans: the Anarchist movement.

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Cato’s Letters (1720-1723)

9 12 2006

These articles, written under the name “Cato,” were the work of John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, a pair of uppity English Whigs who, writing in the immediate aftermath of one of histories’ great corporate scandals, produced what is, without question, some of the best liberal writing ever published in a popular format. In the course of 144 articles, published over a three-year period in the
London Journal and British Journal, few subjects are left unbroached. Some of those subjects, of course, relate to then-contemporary matters, and are of little interest to modern readers, but others present remarkable parallels with contemporary politics. The letters are very well argued, the writing straightforward, concise, and quite hard-hitting; delightful and inspiring reading that became one of the major sources of American revolutionary thought. “No one,” notes historian Clinton Rossiter, “can spend any time in the newspapers, library inventories, and pamphlets of colonial
America without realizing that Cato’s Letters rather than Locke’s Civil Government was the most popular, quotable, esteemed source of political ideas in the colonial period.”

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