Patriots, Loyalists & Revolution in New York City, 1775-76

© W. W. Norton & Co. | Forthcoming January 2014 | ISBN 978-0-393-93730-5

Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-76 draws students into the political and social chaos of a revolutionary New York City, where patriot and loyalist forces argued and fought for advantage among a divided populace. Can students realize the liminal world of chaos, disruption, loss of privacy, and fear of victimization that comes with any revolution accompanied by violence? How do both the overall outcome and the intermediate “surprises” that reflect the shift of events in 1775-76 demonstrate the role of contingency in history? Could the Brits still win? What were the complexities, strengths, and weaknesses of the arguments on both sides? How were these affected by the social circumstances in which the Revolution occurred?

Students engage with the ideological foundations of revolution and government through close readings of Locke, Paine, and other contemporary arguments. Each student’s ultimate victory goal is to have his/her side in control of New York City at the end of 1776 (not as of the end of the Revolution, when all know who won), as well as to achieve certain individual goals (e.g., slaves can attain freedom, propertied women can be granted voting rights, laborers can make deals for land). Winning requires the ability to master the high political arguments for and against revolution as well as the low political skills of logrolling, bribery, and threatened force. Military force often determines the winner, much to the surprise of the students who concentrated merely on internal game politics.

About the Author:

Bill Offutt is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Pforzheimer Honors College at Pace University. His book, Of Good Laws and Good Men: Law and Society in the Delaware Valley 1680-1710, was published in 1995. His academic interests focus on the relationship between law and society, particularly the methods by which legal systems obtain and keep their legitimacy. He has taught classes in colonial America, revolutionary America, the Civil War, Constitutional history, and American women’s history.