Project Overview

Researching "Revolutionary-era American Pamphlet Literature in Context: a Documentary History, 1764-1776"

Faculty Sponsor

Barry Shain (


Political Science


In this project, I’d like to engage one or two student assistants to work with me for ten weeks in researching the North American British Continental Colonies’ revolutionary-era pamphlet literature.  This project and the book (or books) 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-focused views of the historiography of this period.  In the anticipated collection(s), 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 (or volumes) 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, thereby, tightly constrained.
            More particularly, I’ll hope to have completed this summer the work of my assistants from previous 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 in the past -- in completing the headnotes; gather additional background information on the pamphlet authors; and finally, put this information together with that found in the past in building and editing penultimate draft headnotes from which I’ll ultimately author the final headnotes and use in writing various levels of introductions (general and sectional).  Additionally, time permitting, researchers are likely to be asked to begin reading and characterizing, to the degree he or she is capable, the nature of the arguments advanced in the pamphlets under consideration.  Some time, too, might be devoted to preparing the documents themselves for publication.

Student Qualifications

The student or students selected will need to demonstrate some familiarity with the late-colonial period's history but, more importantly, he or she will need to be facile in conducting research, most especially using digital resources, and putting into writing that which they uncover in their research.  In all matters, I will be directing my researchers' work and, therefore, their being able to follow and accept organizational and editorial guidance will be essential.

Number of Student Researchers

One or two students

Project Length

Ten weeks. weeks

Applications open on 01/05/2018 and close on 02/05/2018

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (