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The Minutemen and Their World
Transcript of The Minutemen and Their World
Taught at Amherst College (1976), University of Sussex (1981), and the College of William and Mary (1988)
Currently is the the Draper Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut Education Bachelor's in American Civilization at the University of Pennsylvania
Masters and Doctorate in History from Columbia University Dr. Gross's undergraduate studies and interdisciplinary interests at UPenn were specifically reflected in The Minutemen and Their World, for the book’s focus on the social history of a community relates directly to the study of American civilization specializes in U.S. social and cultural history (1750-1850), the American Revolution, Transcendentalism, the history of the book in the United States, and New England studies He finds an interest in the “common voice” of America. His award-winning book, The Minutemen and Their World, was his first on the American Revolution Countless books, essays, and articles have been written about the American Revolution over the past 200 years However, Dr. Gross's approach to the Revolution took a different perspective, examining its effect on the everyday political and social events of Concord, MA The author "Set the Concord fight in the context of the townspeople's ordinary lives" 1775: The story opens by describing how the months leading up to the war were different than the norm. Warmer weather
Minutemen drilling more frequently
Town politics (usually a spring affair) were not on normal schedule and focused on intercolonial affairs rather than local activities Life in Concord, pre-Revolution, was much different Local government held a suprising amount of power
Concord was loyal to the King and did not push for independance during most of its existence under the Crown
Concord MUCH more focused on local affairs (i.e. location of church in town) Concord resentment towards the British built in: 1765: Due to the Stamp Act
1770: When the British stationed troops in Boston, leading to the Boston Massacre
1772: When the Crown declared that it would be paying the salaries of the Massachusetts Superior Court Judges—in affect buying them
1773: Due to the Tea Act
1774: After the Powder Alarm (a false-alarm British invasion), the leaders of Concord realized that a special force was needed to be able to act on a moment’s notice in case of an attack. Thus, the first MINUTEMEN were assembled in Concord. All contributed to build up of the American Revolution North Bridge: Historical site in the Battle of Concord The troubled economy combined with the Intolerable Acts also contributed to increased hatred of British By spring of 1775 the Continental Congress finally decided to raise an army of 18,000 men, though still only in self-defense The few months before the fighting formed a period of “dread Suspense”: all knew that the British had their eyes on the provisions stored at Concord, but did not know when the attack would occur British arrived at Concord in the early morning hours of April 19th, 1775 Redcoats fought with much brutality; they looted and stole from houses while searching for Concord’s weapons
The Minutemen and the rest of the town’s force managed to push their enemies all the way back to Boston
This was a victory for the people of Concord, for very few men were lost and many Brits even joined the Colonial army War transformed Concordian society Every ounce of manpower was needed to fight the British
Concordian's perception of government changed: they realized that government should be run more by the people and less by a central authority
A declining economy also arose due to a population boom that caused a food shortage and outbreak of disease. The outlaw of paper money drove farm prices down By the 1790s, the Revolutionary War had been won by the colonies and Concord finally saw better and more peaceful times Farmers were prospering for the first time in years
African Americans had more freedom—and in rare cases, social acceptance
New social opportunities were opening up in Concord
Concord was soon competing with Boston to be the center hub of Massachusetts
The famous North Bridge (where the first battle with the Brits took place) was replaced with more efficient roads and highways http://www.history.com/videos/first-revolutionary-battle-at-lexington--concord#first-revolutionary-battle-at-lexington--concord Robert A. Gross was a graduate in a the late '60s/early '70s, a time of unrest and turmoil Extremely rebellious time and Gross could not avoid the transforming society surrounding him
From this era a new type of intellectual thinking: "NEW SOCIAL HISTORY" Focused simply on democratic sympathies for ordinary people
Differed from the widely accepted study of history, which focused on valuable but highly impersonal topics
Gross searched for the "common voice" and the "anonymous Americans"
How would he do this?
Tapped into tax lists, censuses, town meeting minutes, geneologies, and other vital records
New Social History became the basis of Gross's methodology behind his writing
This was a foreign approach, but very suitable for the rebellious time period Originally, Gross researched history of failure rather than success
He sought to explore the cause-and-effect of towns in decline over the first half of the 19th century
This approach on decline and failure also challenged the widely accepted narrative of American history and illustrated the rebellious attitude of society During his search for a declining town, Gross became interested in transcendentalist writiers, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (above) and Henry David Thoreau (below)
Both writers were from Concord, MA, the home of New England Transcendentalism
From study of their writing and other outside sources, Gross concluded that Concord was the perfect subject for a "town in decline"
However, he soon realized that there was a much bigger history behind the study of Concord
Therefore, Gross dropped the large-scale study of declining towns and persued the social/military history of Concord The two main focuses within Gross's study were national progress and military history: The second was a controversial/personal subject because Gross was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War
However, he recognized the importance of the military history of Concord, but focused on local effects of war on the common person
Gross investigated population pressures on land, growing concentration of wealth, the advance of trade, the fluctuation of markets, and many other socio-economic forces Despite his oppostition to the current war, Gross did take interest in the military history of Concord
He was inspired, specifically, by the Minuteman National Historic Park in Concord
Gross finally concluded that there was a connection between the two main focuses of his study: the Concordian's military involvement in the Revolutionary war was not soley a metter of combat, courage, tactics, and strategy, but was interwoven with the social history of Concord and the United States Robert Gross offers an array of real life examples that make his story interesting and relatable to the reader While many people think that pre-war New Englanders wanted total separation from the British Empire, Gross emphasized that the majority of colonists was actually quite loyal to the King
Concordians, like most people, cared first and foremost about their OWN community
Up until and immediately after the first battle of the Revolution, the townspeople did not feel the need to break their alliance with the Crown
By portraying Concordians as rational/moderate rather than radical/patriotic, Gross made his story more realistic and relatable to today's society The present-day reader will connect with the everday conflicts that occurred within the typical Concordian family Gross depicts family issues within Concord that still resonate in today's society For example, 17-year-old Purchase Brown was living with his family, working hard to help maintain the family farm while sharing a bed with his younger brother
Like many teenagers today, Browned yearned for more freedom from his crowded life Another very apparent connection between Concordian society and today's society is the struggle to earn a living during time of economic recession In Concordian society, it was standard for a father to pass family land to his childrem. However, this practice was increasingly limited
The root problem was the decreasing size and quality of Concordian land
The decreasing availability of land caused economic stress and as a result, many farmers moved West
The option of Westward-movement also took its toll on the family ties between father and son
At the same time, the father-daughter ties were loosening as well