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The long-range causes for the American Revolution may be found in the different social environment developing in England and America during previous decades. John Adams once wrote: "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced, in the minds and hearts of the people." For over a century and a half English colonists in North America had been transforming their Old World culture into something greatly different. The wilderness conditions of the new land generally promoted wider economic opportunity. England's colonial administration allowed extensive experience in self-government in her American possessions. Together these two developments introduced a high degree of social mobility, and without realizing it, perhaps, the "free-born American" aspired to a future different from that of his Majesty's subjects in the mother country. Each passing generation knew increasingly little of England, "having only heard of her." as one writer phrased it, "as a distant Kingdom, the rulers of which had, in the preceding century, persecuted and banished their ancestors to the woods of America." Nevertheless, the loyalty of the colonists was hardly in doubt until an unenlightened British ministry and an obstinate British monarch decided on an abrupt change of policy for their North American provinces. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section XI: The Revolutionary Years, 1776-1815. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.