About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s conversation with Woody Holton about his new book, Liberty Is Sweet, which looks at overlooked factors of the American Revolution and the roles of marginalized peoples.

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs you can view later this month on our YouTube channel.

On Wednesday, October 20, at 1 p.m., Francesca Morgan will talk about her new book, A Nation of Descendants, which traces Americans’ fascination with tracking family lineage and explores how genealogy has always mattered in our country.

And on Friday, October 22, at noon, NASA astronaut Nicole Stott will discuss her work on the International Space Station and share insights from scientists, activists, and changemakers who are working to solve our greatest environmental challenges. Her new book is Back to Earth.

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The study of history explores the questions of why and how things happened. Sometimes what seems to be familiar is revealed to possess many facets. In his new work, Liberty Is Sweet, Woody Holton seeks out the “hidden history” of the American Revolution. 

Holton used more than a thousand eyewitness accounts to construct this history.  Many of those are freely available online for you to read for yourselves. The original words of leading figures of the Revolution may be found on the Founders Online, a website hosted by the National Archives through the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Children in elementary schools across America learn of the Declaration of Independence and the battles led by George Washington. Looking back nearly 250 years, the American Revolution and its outcome can appear inevitable.

But engaging and defeating a military power such as Great Britain required the involvement of people from many walks of life. Liberty Is Sweet uncovers the roles played by women, Native Americans, enslaved Africans and African Americans, and religious dissenters. Holton also focuses on often-overlooked factors such as weather, geography, and disease.

Too often we jump from July 4, 1776, to Washington’s first Presidency, glancing over seven years of warfare. Liberty Is Sweet gives us a fresh look at the American Revolution and the many people up and down the social spectrum who influenced it.

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Woody Holton is McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches and researches early American history, especially the American Revolution. He is the author of several books, including Abigail Adams, which was awarded the Bancroft Prize; his second book, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Joining him in conversation is Nicole Maskiell, assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina, where she is also the director of the Public History program, a Peter and Bonnie McCausland fellow, and a Faculty Associate in African American Studies at the Walker International Institute.

Now let’s hear from Woody Holton and Nicole Maskiell. Thank you for joining us today.