A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution

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Author: Herbert Sloan
Date: Winter 1989
From: Business History Review(Vol. 63, Issue 4)
Publisher: Business History Review
Document Type: Book review
Length: 897 words

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A Mighty Empire: The Origins of the American Revolution Marc Egnal is nothing if not ambitious. In A Mighty Empire, he offers us a new and, he thinks, better explanation of the coming of the American Revolution. Egnal locates this explanation in a contest between two factions of the colonial elite, the "expansionists" and the "nonexpansionists." The former--"those wealthy individuals who were committed to fostering America's rise to greatness"--moved to break from Britain when the mother country showed itself unwilling to accept their claims (p. 338). The latter, tied by interest to the metropolis and looking, as it were, backward across the Atlantic rather than forward into the new continent and its apparently limitless possibilities for growth, became Tories. Egnal consciously intends his thesis to replace both the more recent neo-Whig interpretations associated with Bernard Bailyn and the older imperial and progressive explanations (pp. 2-5). But few readers are likely to be persuaded by this relentlessly monocausal argument.

To substantiate his claims, Egnal traces the pattern of eighteenth-century politics in five of the American colonies--Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and South Carolina--from 1690 to 1776. Largely if not exclusively in the hands of the elite, politics in the five colonies were firmly grounded in elite interests, and by the middle of the eighteenth century the elite in each of Egnal's cases came to be...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A10619820