John M. Murrin
Beverly Schaefer

The book: Rethinking America: From Empire to Republic (Oxford University Press) is a collection of historian John M. Murrin’s essays on the American Revolution, the American Constitution, and the early American Republic. The essays rethink what Americans often view as unquestionable: the reasons for declaring independence in 1776 and the effects that the ensuing Revolutionary War had on the nation in years to come. Murrin explains how a constitutional argument within the British Empire became a radical revolution that struck monarchy at its core and elevated democracy on the world stage.

The author: John M. Murrin, professor of history emeritus, has written more than 50 essays and co-wrote the textbook Liberty, Equality, Power. He is one of the foremost historians on early America.

Opening lines: “Americans have always shared one conviction about their Revolution: It was a good thing for the United States and the entire world. The revolutionary generation believed that its principles would benevolently affect social conditions, agriculture, political economy, the fine arts, and even basic demographic trends. Only now are many of these themes being recovered… The early chroniclers of the Revolution began to lose some of the movement’s context even while quoting directly from its fundamental documents. They explained and defended the Revolution in terms essentially constitutional and political, as the triumph of liberty, equality, and limited government against the menace of irresponsible power and aristocratic privilege—rather feeble dangers, they somewhat paradoxically implied, if only by giving these challenges little real chance of success in America’s unique, libertarian environment, which they found at work in the very first settlements. “

Reviews: "In the last half-century no American historian has thought more deeply about the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national periods than John Murrin …  Every serious student of American history should read this book." —Fred Anderson, University of Colorado, Boulder