This is the sort of article that any historian–amateur, public, academic, a blend of all three–should read and consider, regardless of one’s area of interest. Much of my work happens to involve an attempt to connect the popular historical mindset and academic history of the American founding era, so it speaks directly to that effort. As one commentator has already pointed out, both popular authors (who now, apparently, include Ellis and Beeman, who both have done terrific academic work) and scholars are looking for their books to sell–it just so happens that the targeted consumers are quite different. But that misses Herschtal’s most valuable point, which is less about any particular interpretation of the American Revolution than it is about how we develop our views of it. If the recent Philadelphia conference revealed anything it was that many scholars aren’t even up on the foundational historiography, much less the most recent work. Add to that an attempt to keep track of what’s popping up in the popular press and a challenge turns into a gargantuan hurdle.
So the main issue is not whether one sort, popular or academic, is more relevant or less problematic than the other, but that we should acknowledge the yawning gap between them, and explore its causes, character, and consequences. In America, there are at least two versions of the American Revolution: that held by the public and that of the scholars who ostensibly work in the field. I see every day that the twain rarely meet or, rather, when they do, a confusing disconnection results. What this review strongly suggests is that historians of all sorts should spend more time trying to bridge the gap, rather than ignoring that it exists.