New Book | Past and Prologue

Posted in books by Editor on January 15, 2021

From Yale UP:

Michael Hattem, Past and Prologue: Politics and Memory in the American Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), 320 pages, ISBN: 978-0300234961, $40.

How American colonists reinterpreted their British and colonial histories to help establish political and cultural independence from Britain

In Past and Prologue, Michael Hattem shows how colonists’ changing understandings of their British and colonial histories shaped the politics of the American Revolution and the origins of American national identity. Between the 1760s and 1800s, Americans stopped thinking of the British past as their own history and created a new historical tradition that would form the foundation for what subsequent generations would think of as ‘American history’. This change was a crucial part of the cultural transformation at the heart of the Revolution by which colonists went from thinking of themselves as British subjects to thinking of themselves as American citizens. Rather than liberating Americans from the past—as many historians have argued—the Revolution actually made the past matter more than ever. Past and Prologue shows how the process of reinterpreting the past played a critical role in the founding of the nation.

Michael D. Hattem is Associate Director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. He has taught history at Knox College and Lang College at The New School.




Part I. Colonial History Culture in British America, 1730–1776
1  History Culture in Pre-Revolutionary British America
2  The Colonial Past in the Imperial Crisis
3  The British Past in the Imperial Crisis

Interlude: Natural Law, Independence, and Revolutionary History Culture, 1772–1776

Part II. National History Culture in the Early Republic, 1776–1812
4  The Expansion of Early National History Culture
5  The Colonial Past in the Early Republic
6  Creating a Deep Past for a New Nation



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