Cover: The Urban Crucible: Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution, from Harvard University PressCover: The Urban Crucible in E-DITION

The Urban Crucible

Social Change, Political Consciousness, and the Origins of the American Revolution

Product Details


$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674182899

Publication Date: 11/26/1979

548 pages



Available from De Gruyter »

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Harvard University Press has partnered with De Gruyter to make available for sale worldwide virtually all in-copyright HUP books that had become unavailable since their original publication. The 2,800 titles in the “e-ditions” program can be purchased individually as PDF eBooks or as hardcover reprint (“print-on-demand”) editions via the “Available from De Gruyter” link above. They are also available to institutions in ten separate subject-area packages that reflect the entire spectrum of the Press’s catalog. More about the E-ditions Program »

This book boldly interprets colonial life and the origins of the American Revolution. Through a century-long history of three seaport towns—Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—Gary B. Nash discovers subtle changes in social and political awareness and relates them ultimately to revolution.

Comparing America’s three largest cities in the first half of the eighteenth century, Nash demonstrates how the origins of the American Revolution were deeply rooted and shows why Boston became the first center of insurrectionary ferment. He describes the coming of the Revolution as partly that of popular collective action and partly that of challenging the gentry’s claim to rule by custom, law, and divine will. With poverty on the rise and their share of colonial wealth and bounty decreasing, ordinary people forced their way into politics through street demonstrations, mass meetings, and intimidation of their enemies. Their reordering of political power, running oppositely from the redistribution of economic power, required a new consciousness to challenge the model of social relations inherited from the past and defended by higher classes. Deeply affected by economic dislocations at the end of the Seven Years War, urban dwellers struggled against each other rather than working harmoniously for the mutual good. By the 1760s the internal struggles in the port towns had become intertwined with the contest with Britain.

Nash’s study, based on wide research, including many previously unexploited sources, clearly and vigorously written, is a major work of reevaluation, changing the contours of colonial and revolutionary history. It takes its place among the most important books in American studies.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

A stack of five bestselling titles from Harvard University Press against a hot pink textured background

Ringing in the New Year with HUP’s 2022 Bestsellers

There is no better way for readers to usher in the new year than by looking back to the books that defined the last. For Harvard University Press, our 2022 bestsellers make up a diverse list of books across time and discipline.