Episode 144: Robert Parkinson, The Common Cause of the American Revolution

How do you get people living in thirteen different colonies to come together and fight for independence?

What ideas and experiences would even unite them behind the fight?

Patriot leaders asked themselves these very questions, especially as the American Revolution turned from a series of political protests against imperial policies to a bloody war for independence. What’s more, Patriot leaders also asked themselves once we find these ideas and experiences, how do we use them to unite the American people?

Robert Parkinson, an Assistant Professor of History at Binghamton University and author of the award-winning book, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution, has some ideas for how patriot leaders answered these questions.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

Robert Parkinson, an Assistant Professor of History at Binghamton University and author of The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution, joins us to explore how patriot leaders created the story of the common cause in an effort to bind Americans together in the fight for independence.

During our investigation of the common cause, Rob reveals what the common cause was and how its story originated; Newspapers and the role they played in circulating common cause ideas and news about the patriot war effort; And, details about the effectiveness of the common cause story as a tactic that united Americans behind the cause of independence.

What You’ll Discover

  • The common cause and its origins
  • How patriots shaped public opinion to support the American Revolution
  • Newspapers and the circulation of news in early America
  • The role printers played in shaping the story of the common cause
  • Important printers in early America
  • How the common cause story helped Americans define themselves as Americans
  • Wartime service of African Americans
  • How common cause stories impacted the wartime experiences of Native American and African Americans
  • The effectiveness of the common cause in uniting Americans
  • The Carlisle Peace Commission
  • British reaction to the common cause story
  • Lasting effects of the common cause


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if there had been no printing presses? Would the common cause have developed and if so, how would patriots have spread news about it?

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