A Review of Baker and Edelstein, eds., SCRIPTING REVOLUTIONS

Last week my review of Keith Michael Baker and Dan Edelstein, eds., Scripting Revolution: A Historical Approach to the Comparative Study of Revolutions (Stanford University Press, 2015) was published by H-Diplo. You can read the entire thing here.

In general, I really liked the book and found it quite useful. (I’m a sucker for theoretically rich accounts that take a broad look at historical phenomena.) I especially found the editors’/authors’ use of “scripts” as an explanatory framework to be quite useful, and I even used it last semester in my graduate seminar on the Age of Revolutions. I heartily recommend the volume.

The topic seems especially pertinent for today’s age, and indeed was inspired by current tensions. Here’s how I open the review:

If the recent Hamilton play is any indication, there is still a cultural appetite for revolutions. In a way, this has always been the case. But the idea of “revolutions” has received renewed attention in recent years following the political unrest that spread across Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other nations, now known as the Arab Spring, and many wondered if the new possibilities made available through social networking have opened a new chapter to story of revolutionary protest. Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2011, for instance, was “The Protestor,” a fill-in for the many groups who sought to overturn governments and power structures around the globe. On the one hand, there seems to be something universal about this type of unrest, both in the sense of a cultural moment that can be captured in an “Age of Revolutions” framework that emphasizes connectivity and comradeship, but also through transgenerational principles related to humanity that evade circumstance and context. Yet on the other hand, each revolution seems rooted in a particular time and place, the result of parochial decisions and actions that tether the revolt close to home.

Also, it had to be cut due to H-Net’s formatting, but I originally wanted this excerpt from the musical Hamilton to serve as an epigraph:

And? If we win our independence?
Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?
Or will the blood we shed begin an endless
Cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants?

Viva la revolutión!

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