First Essay –Revolutionary Era

Due October 3, 2022

On Monday October 3, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a Revolutionary Era topic provided to them in class on Thursday, September 29:

  1. The American Revolution proceeded in stages with results that might have astounded some of the original colonial tax protestors.  What were three of the most profound shifts in revolutionary thinking between 1765 and 1800?  Use specific historical examples, date markers, and evidence when formulating your response.  
  1. “Our founding ideals of liberty and equality were false when they were written,” argues Nikole Hannah-Jones in the 1619 Project.  Agree or disagree with this statement, but regardless of your answer, make sure to describe different ways of interpreting the collision between American revolutionary ideals and the reality of slavery, using an array of specific historic examples and evidence.
  • Please open your paper with a descriptive title and your byline.
  • Organize your essay in a way that respects chronology and historical context.
  • Use past tense except when describing modern scholarship
  • Avoid first person pronouns, including “our”
  • Prof. Pinsker is available to answer questions or review drafts over email (before Monday) and you may also utilize the Writing Center. Do not consult with other students in the course.

All essays must include both primary and secondary source material from the assigned readings properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required.

  • Relevant reading assignments for this essay include several chapters from American Yawp, as well as articles by Cornelia Dayton, Joanne Freeman, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Edward O’Donnell.  But don’t forget to consult the discussion topic pages on the course site syllabus as well –they also contain valuable insights and examples.
  • Make sure to devise a thesis statement that can be effectively argued in a short paper.  Consult the Methods Center handout on How to Write a Thesis Statement 
  • Make sure you are formatting your footnotes correctly (see some of the samples below).  For further guidance, see this methods handout on How to Use Footnotes and consult as needed with the library’s Chicago-style guide, but make sure to use sample footnote models for formatting and NOT bibliography examples.  

Sample Footnotes

[1] L.D. Burnett,, “Indigenous America,” in The American Yawp, eds. Joseph Locke and Ben Wright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018). [WEB]

[2] Yawp, Chapter 1: IV.

[3] Cornelia Hughes Dayton, “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village,” William & Mary Quarterly 48 (Jan. 1991): 48 [JSTOR].


Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]