- Conversations with the Classics. Ancient Political Virtue and Two Modern Revolutions
- Early American Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 10 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
Since R. R. Palmer formulated his influential thesis about the Age of the Democratic Revolution half a century ago, historians have criticized and revised his views on the nature of the late eighteenth-century political revolutions in the Western world. They have, among other things, pointed out that whereas Palmer treated those revolutions as a sharp break with the past, revolutionary political thought in fact remained significantly rooted in classical republicanism. Departing from such insights, this article discusses some of the ways in which the classical heritage remained relevant to the late eighteenth-century revolutions in both America and the Dutch Republic. After reviewing the various ways in which the Palmer thesis has been revised over the past decades, this article focuses on the immense importance of the classical notion of virtuous participatory citizenship for revolutionaries on both sides of the ocean. It demonstrates how this notion not only was of crucial consequence in the initial assault on the established order, but also remained conspicuously present in the constructive phase of both the American and the Dutch revolutions, particularly in the substantial debates over the proper size of a republic and the nature of political representation.
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