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The Royalist Revolution

The Royalist Revolution

Monarchy and the American Founding

Eric Nelson

ISBN 9780674979772

Publication date: 11/20/2017

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Winner of the Society of the Cincinnati History Prize, Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey
Finalist, George Washington Prize
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2015

Generations of students have been taught that the American Revolution was a revolt against royal tyranny. In this revisionist account, Eric Nelson argues that a great many of our “founding fathers” saw themselves as rebels against the British Parliament, not the Crown. The Royalist Revolution interprets the patriot campaign of the 1770s as an insurrection in favor of royal power—driven by the conviction that the Lords and Commons had usurped the just prerogatives of the monarch.

The Royalist Revolution is a thought-provoking book, and Nelson is to be commended for reviving discussion of the complex ideology of the American Revolution. He reminds us that there was a spectrum of opinion even among the most ardent patriots and a deep British influence on the political institutions of the new country.”
—Andrew O’Shaughnessy, Wall Street Journal

“A scrupulous archaeology of American revolutionary thought.”
—Thomas Meaney, The Nation

“A powerful double-barrelled challenge to historiographical orthodoxy.”
—Colin Kidd, London Review of Books

“[A] brilliant and provocative analysis of the American Revolution.”
—John Brewer, New York Review of Books


  • [A] brilliant and provocative analysis of the American Revolution… [Nelson] departs radically from his predecessors, arguing that it was admiration for royal prerogative power and belief in the virtues of a strong executive, both derived from seventeenth-century precedents, that fostered the rebellion against Britain and shaped the Constitution of the new American republic. His Revolution comes out of a royalist, not a parliamentarian, tradition. The Royalist Revolution is a book of great intellectual power: it is not just challenging but erudite (many of its abundant footnotes are brilliant short essays in their own right), and, though densely argued, is written with admirable clarity and fairness.

    —John Brewer, New York Review of Books


  • Eric Nelson is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (both from Harvard), and The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought.

Book Details

  • 400 pages
  • Belknap Press

From this author