Historiography of the Founding Era

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    To what extent is it true that there are several “schools” of thought about the founding era, such as Whig, Neo-Whig, etc?

    Why do people such as Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood get grouped into a particular school of historiography when, so far as I have been able to gather, their arguments aren’t very controversial and seem to be mostly empirical?

    Where do Wood and Bailyn get it right and get it wrong, and would Forrest McDonald fall into any particular historiographical schools?


    Bailyn’s The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution marked the break between the Progressive approach to the Revolution/Founding and the ideological approach, which remains dominant now. Wood extended his teacher Bailyn’s attitude into the Philadelphia Convention and ratification.

    McDonald essentially hoed his own row. He didn’t adopt either the republican or the liberal (Joyce Appleby’s and Drew McCoy’s) approach to the era.

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