Project Overview

Researching “Revolutionary-era American Pamphlet Literature in Context: a Documentary History

Faculty Sponsor

Barry Shain (


Political Science


In this project, I’d like to engage one or two student assistants this summer to work with me for eight weeks in researching the North American British Continental Colonies’ revolutionary-era pamphlet literature. This project and the book hopefully to follow will focus on the troubled imperial relationship between the continental colonists and the British Parliament while challenging widely accepted but overly hagiographic and philosophically-informed views of the historiography of this period. In the anticipated collection, The Revolutionary-Era American Pamphlet Literature in Historical Context, I intend to publish, with various levels of introductions and extended headnotes, 70-80 of the 231 pamphlets printed or reprinted in the colonies in the years 1764-1776. It is my hope that this volume will show that the most widely read and reprinted pamphlets demonstrate, in opposition to widely accepted views of the Revolutionary-era colonies, that the colonial pamphlets were predominantly responding in opposition but in kind to the British Parliament’s constitutional claims rather than advancing, as is so often claimed, a seventeenth-century English philosophical radicalism or a still more novel progressive democratic-inspired political theory. More provocatively, still, I’ll seek to show that the majority of the continental colonists between 1764 and early 1776, at least those whose records we can readily access, hoped to remain in the British Empire and to be ruled by a limited constitutional monarch while maintaining their distance from republicanism and, still more, democracy both which were generally viewed as political pathologies to be, if at all possible, avoided except when balanced by other powerful social forces and, thus, tightly constrained. More particularly, I’ll hope to complete this summer the work of my assistants from the previous three summers in drafting the head notes which are to precede each of the 80 or so pamphlets to be included in the planned collection. This will entail that this summer’s researchers find difficult to uncover secondary historical and biographical materials in digital and printed formats -- i.e., materials that weren’t found by my student researchers over the past three summers -- in completing the headnotes; gather additional background information on the pamphlet authors; and finally, put this information together with that found over the past few summers in building and editing penultimate draft headnotes from which I’ll ultimately author the headnotes and use in writing various levels of introductions (general and sectional).

Student Qualifications

Good researching -- in particular while using digital formats -- writing, and editing skills.

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/15/2017 and close on 02/07/2017

<< Back to List

If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (