The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution

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Date: Autumn 2013
From: Canadian Journal of History(Vol. 48, Issue 2)
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 957 words
Lexile Measure: 1640L

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The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution, by Jack P. Greene. New Histories of American Law series. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011. xxiv, 198 pp. $74.09 Cdn (cloth), $21.26 Cdn (paper).

Few historians announce the historiographical contribution they hope to achieve as clearly and explicitly as Jack P. Greene in his The Constitutional Origins of the American Revolution. Greene adopts quite an agenda for this slim volume, proposed to him by the editors of the New Histories of American Law series at Cambridge University Press. He wants to return constitutionalism and law to the centre of Revolutionary history, rejuvenate discussion of the causes of the American Revolution, bring attention to other historians (especially John Phillip Reid) whose work he prizes, and to disseminate updated versions of key chapters of his own now out-of-print book Peripheries and Center (Athens, Georgia, 1986). Although it remains to be seen how much his call for more attention to legal history will be heeded, on every other count he succeeds.

Greene argues in the volume that "the revolution that occurred in North America during the last quarter of the eighteenth century was the unintended consequence of a dispute about law" (p. 1). Greene charts how most English authorities believed in one constitution that governed England, all parts of the British union, and the colonies. Simultaneously, many North American colonists became so used to governing themselves on local matters, sanctioned by royal charters and...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A356038520