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Constitutional History of the American Revolution
Abridged Edition
John Phillip Reid

Designed for use in courses, this abridged edition of the four-volume Constitutional History of the American Revolution demonstrates how significant constitutional disputes were in instigating the American Revolution. John Phillip Reid addresses the central constitutional issues that divided the American colonists from their English legislators: the authority to tax, the authority to legislate, the security of rights, the nature of law, the foundation of constitutional government in custom and contractarian theory, and the search for a constitutional settlement. Reid's distinctive analysis discusses the irreconcilable nature of this conflict—irreconcilable not because leaders in politics on both sides did not desire a solution, but because the dynamics of constitutional law impeded a solution that permitted the colonies to remain part of the dominions of George III.

"The assumptions and themes of this book challenge much of the historical profession's thinking about the origins of the American Revolution. Professor Reid suggests that Americans sought to preserve the Empire, while the English tragically destroyed it with constitutional innovation. If this is correct, and Reid's argument is convincing, historians need to rethink issues and problems of economics, social stress, and political nationalism and place constitutionalism... back at the top of the list of causes of the Revolution."—Howard A. Ohline, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

John Phillip Reid is professor of law at New York University. His work on American and British legal history has been widely acclaimed for decades. In addition to the Constitutional History of the American Revolution, his many books include The Concept of Liberty in the Age of the American Revolution and The Concept of Representation in the Age of the American Revolution.

Click here for information and to order other volumes of the
Constitutional History of the American Revolution
Volume I: The Authority of Rights

Volume II: The Authority to Tax
Volume III: The Authority to Legislate
Volume IV: The Authority of Law

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Red, white and blue cover depicts an eagle grapsing arrows and an olive branch

May 1995

LC: 94-039045 KF
176 pp. 6 x 9

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Paper $18.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-14664-1
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"Reid persuasively argues that students of the Revolution have moved too quickly from constitutional arguments to economic interests, ideology, and social psychology. Reid's Constitutional History is essential reading for any serious student of the American Revolution."
—Peter S. Onuf, Journal of American History

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Updated June 26, 2013

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