America before 1787: The Unraveling of a Colonial Regime

An original account, drawing on both history and social science, of the causes and consequences of the American Revolution


Apr 25, 2023
6.13 x 9.25 in.
4 tables.
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With America before 1787, Jon Elster offers the second volume of a projected trilogy that examines the emergence of constitutional politics in France and America. Here, he explores the increasingly uneasy relations between Britain and its American colonies and the social movements through which the thirteen colonies overcame their seemingly deep internal antagonisms.

Elster documents the importance of the radical uncertainty about their opponents that characterized both British and American elites and reveals the often neglected force of enthusiasm, and of emotions more generally, in shaping beliefs and in motivating actions. He provides the first detailed examinations of “divide and rule” as a strategy used on both sides of the Atlantic and of the rise and fall of collective action movements among the Americans. Elster also explains how the gradual undermining in America of the British imperial system took its toll on transatlantic relations and describes how state governments and the American Confederation made crucial institutional decisions that informed and constrained the making of the Constitution.

Drawing on a wide range of historical sources and on theories of modern social science, Elster brings together two fields of scholarship in innovative and original ways. The result is a unique synthesis that yields new insights into some of the most important events in modern history.