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

Available from De Gruyter »

Product Details


$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674182899

Publication Date: 01/01/1979

548 pages



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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.

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Jacket: The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap, by Mehrsa Baradaran, from Harvard University Press

Book Club Spotlight: The Color of Money

The Vivian’s Door Initiative is inspired by the courage and legacy of the late Vivian Malone Jones. She was the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama and was responsible for ending the segregation of public universities in the state of Alabama. Vivian’s courage and will power to create change for her brothers and sisters of color inspired the creation of a nonprofit project called Vivian’s Door. In March 2020, Vivian’s Door started a book club; their first pick was The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran. In June, over 50 people joined the online discussion of the book