Book review on award-winning book The Minutemen and Their World by Robert Gross.
The Minutemen and Their World by Robert Gross is a winner of the Bancroft Prize. The book first came out in 1976. Recently, it has been reissued in celebration of its twenty-fifth anniversary edition with a new Afterward by the author. In The Minutemen and Their World, Robert Gross wrote a subtle and in-depth depiction of the people and community of this special place. It is a convincing explanation of the American Revolution, depicting it as a social movement.
Summary of Book
The Minutemen and Their World offers a glimpse of the lives of the people living in the colonial period in Concord Massachusetts; this is where the Revolutionary War in Robert Gross’s book starts. Gross, “sets the Concord Fight, as it used to be known, in the context of the townspeople’s ordinary lives, before and after April 19, 1775. It examines how the citizens farmed the land, raised their families, and carried on their politics at the end of the colonial period.”
On April 19, 1775, the American Revolution took place at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. The “shot heard round the world” became the wake up call that put the peaceful New England town at the center revolution. Concord’s image took a major shift and its growing popularity hinged on its being the intellectual capital of the new republic. The town where Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne came from symbolized commitment to liberty, intellectual independence, and the firm integrity of the rural life.
Author’s Main Theme
The major themes revolved on how people viewed the British invasion, their thoughts on imposed taxes and tariffs, and an overview of life in general during the period. The book depicts the life of people in Concord, Massachusetts to serve as an example for the bigger picture or the overall story on the American Revolution. Gross points out that the struggle for independence from Britain is not to be considered as a revolution but a cautious social struggle against the pressing issues of the day – patriarchal governance, religious fanaticism, individualism, and restricted government control.
Gross’ message contained in the book is that the Revolution is a means for people of Concord to have a clear grasp on the situation and be able to direct its own course. In 1775-1776, great changes occurred in the colonies, particularly Concord. The urgent concerns include decreasing supplies of land, desire of its residents to hire their own minister. With all these problems, participation in the Revolution gave Concord an opportunity to exercise initiative and regain rule on its political and communal life, bring back independence. Gross says, “The men of 1775 had not gone to war to promote change but to stop it.”
In the book, Gross augmented the book’s information by using historical public records to relate a story, associating emotion and motivation with the statistical trends. Quantitative data was presented subjectively and to avoid biases Gross allows the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In the book, the most persuasive argument Gross points out is the loss of patriarchal control in Concord, and even across the colonies. His vivid description how sons rely on fathers for land, and daughters rely on fathers for dowries sets the tone of the story. When drastic changes occurred economically, dowries are affected, local fertile land becomes scant and grown children leave the family to pursue the frontier. In turn, the father loses source of labor (slavery was not popular in Massachusetts) and the children lose inheritance and stability. Gross approaches each argument in a similar manner – he tells a personal story backed by quantitative research. This makes the story more effective because it presents facts in a very interesting manner, something which anyone can relate to emotionally.
The Minutemen and Their World was revolutionary in the sense that it personalizes a Revolution. The author added to the understanding of the Revolution by presenting historical records and statistics and intertwine it with the lives and motivations to all of Concord’s citizens – great men, but also average people: poor men, widows, spinsters, ministers, blacks, farmers, blacksmiths, intellectuals, substitutes, and dissenters. The arguments are based solidly on facts because of the great quantitative research, but the author sometimes wonders “if the Minutemen would recognize themselves in my mirror”. Academics sometimes use Gross’s work to compare Vietnam to the American Revolution but Gross does not include it in the main text. This is a must read for students who wants to know about the Revolution in great detail.