VCE History. Revolutions - units 3 & 4

This guide identifies resources relevant to the VCE History - Revolutions units

American Revolution

The American Revolutionary Period is classified differently across different sources, although is generally considered to fall between approximately 1764 and 1789. It is important to be aware of the social and political climate before the Revolution, which can help shine a light on the causes of the conflict; as well as the societal conditions in the aftermath of Revolution.

Area of study 1 - Causes - spans the period from the French and Indian War (1754-1763) through to the signing of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776. Area of study 2 - Consequences - covers the immediate aftermath from 1776 through to 1789.

For simple, broad overviews of the American Revolution try the Oxford Reference: History database. Alpha History also has a very useful American Revolution Timeline

eBooks

The Library has a number of ebooks considering issues around the American Revolution. Most of these can be accessed online using your State Library Victoria member number.

Before you begin a search of our catalogue, make sure to read the Catalogue tab of this guide for a basic understanding of how to search.

To search our ebook collection, set the drop-down menu to the right of the search box to 'ebooks'. You can search your keywords anywhere in the record, or search more specifically within the subject as we have done in the example below:

eBook catalogue search

Note that some of our ebooks can only be read onsite at the Library, either on one of our bookable public PCs, or on your own device connected to our wifi.

Suggested subject headings

If you find a title that is particularly useful you can also search for similar books by clicking on the Subjects linked under the Details heading of the record. 

Some eBooks from our collection

Databases

The Library subscribes to a wide range of databases, most of which you can view from home with your free SLV membership

Filter the database list by subject to see all of our History databases or Historic Newspaper databases.

Recommended databases

Once you have chosen a database, you will need to search it by keyword. Use Simple or Basic Search for specific information, or consider Advanced Search when searching several interrelated concepts. Remember that you can filter your results by the kind of resource, or by the year of publication. 

Consider doing the following:

  • remove 'Reviews' from your results to exclude book reviews
  • include only 'full text' results
  • limit publication date to a specific timeframe - this is particularly useful if you are searching a primary source or newspaper database and want to see opinions written at a specific time. 

An example of an Advanced search from the JSTOR database is shown in the side panel of this guide.

Articles

Use these tabs to see examples of some of the articles that can be found on specific issues of the American Revolutionary War, the causes and the aftermath. 

These articles can be contradictory as different historians interpret the evidence of events in different ways. The articles will also have footnotes and bibliographies that can lead to further articles.

These are just a few examples of articles you can find using our databases and Article search through our Library catalogue. Remember that you will be asked to sign in with your free membership number to view the articles. See the Catalogue tab in this guide for more information on searching, or see our Help page on using Articles search.

Historical perspectives on the American revolution

The subject of history is the study of past events. A historian is someone who researches these events and interprets them. Different historians may judge the causes and effects of historical events differently and may place greater emphasis on certain documents or evidence to form their conclusions.

Historians may also approach and interpret evidence through their own personal perspectives, influenced by their background and political, ideological or social beliefs. For example historians may view historical events through a left wing or conservative lens. Historians may be identified as ‘revisionist’ if they reinterpret events in a way that contradict traditional historical conclusions.

Choose from the tabs above for suggestions of texts written from a specific perspective. We don't, though, want to classify historians too narrowly and so the categories should be interpreted broadly.

Alpha history

This site has been developed to support VCE students and includes excellent overviews of each of the VCE Revolutions topics. The site also has pages on historical perspectives, highlighting specific historians.

In Great Britain the Whig party were opposed to an absolute monarch and favoured parliamentary representation and personal rights and liberties. While there was no official whig party in America at the time of the revolution, the views of the British whigs, especially the more radical whigs, were influential in America.  American revolutionists were known as whigs and later more commonly as patriots.

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) was an activist during the American revolution. She wrote pamphlets ardently promoting American independence and wrote one of the first histories of the American revolution

George Bancroft (1800-1891) was an American politician and historian very sympathetic to the patriot cause

Neo Whigs were historians who in the 1960s studied the ideological basis of the revolution and viewed republicanism as a key element. They were branded neo Whigs as they were seen to be endorsing the early 'whig' histories.

In the 20th century old enmities faded and Britain and the United States became close allies. Historians, informed by much closer attention to British documents, reassessed America's colonial past. They arrived at more sympathetic views of British administration of colonial America.  This is often described as a Loyalist perspective.

From the early part of the 20th century Charles Beard and subsequent historians questioned the idealised view of the revolution. These 'progressive' historians identified commercial issues and self-interest in the actions of the founding fathers. 

Primary sources

Library of Congress

The U.S. Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and holds a wealth of resources relating to the American Revolution.

Their American Revolution resource guide contains many digitised primary sources, and also links to several external websites, such as the American Archives and the Massachusetts Historical Society

Primary sources at SLV

Try this search for holdings at the Library containing primary documents:

United States History Revolution 1775-1783 Sources

These items will mainly be in print, and only available at the Library (not online).

For online primary sources, try the collection: Introduction to U.S. History: The American Revolution from the Archives Unbound database (see Databases box above).

Newspaper resources

Newspaper archives will be held in our database collection. See the box on Databases above.

From our Pictures collection

Photograph of the Statue of Liberty

New York landmarks, H96.46/30

The Statue of Liberty was given by France to America as a gift in honor of the alliance between the two countries during the American Revolution, and celebrated the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Books at SLV

SLV has a range of physical books relating to the American Revolution. Many will be in storage, but some will be available on the shelf in the Redmond Barry Reading Room

Perform a catalogue search using the Books scope. You can Ask a Librarian for assistance if you need to order an item from storage. Alternatively, use the Find on Shelf search scope to limit results to books you can read immediately. Note that SLV is not a lending library; books are to be read onsite at the Library. 

To browse the shelves, try the range at 973.3 (North American History: Revolution and confederation, 1775-89). North American History more broadly is at 970-979. This will be upstairs in the Redmond Barry Reading Room mezzanine. 

Remember that the areas of study for this subject includes the causes of the Revolution, and you may wish to read more broadly on the Colonial Period (1607-1775) held at 973.2.

Some examples of books at 973.3

Note that there will be other books on the American Revolution in other parts of the Library. For instance, books that are more focused on the constitutional and legal aspects of the American Revolution will be held at 342.7.

JSTOR Advanced Search

An example of how to perform an Advanced Search in a database. Here we are searching for information on the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution in JSTOR. Other databases will have similar features.

JSTOR Advanced Search