Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History


Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Sheila L Skemp

Second Advisor

Elise S. Lake

Third Advisor

Ted Ownby

Relational Format



This dissertation examines American fathers in the eighteenth century and argues that the American Revolution, both the war itself and the ideology it created, affected attitudes towards and practices of fatherhood. Historians have characterized the father/son relationship in the Revolutionary period as one of filial rebellion against their patriarchal fathers. My work finds, conversely, that because of their experience in the Revolution, ideas such as liberty and equality which spread throughout the colonies, and additional opportunities available to industrious young men due to national independence, fathers actively prepared their sons for an independent life free from patronage, massive inheritances, and the paternal protection which pre-Revolutionary fathers had offered their sons. Fathers throughout the thirteen colonies instilled into their children republican virtues such as self-sacrifice, independence, the value of education, and a sense of the public good, so that their sons could perform their duties as male citizens of a republic. I contend, moreover, that these values radically changed the way fathers and sons understood their relationship and their view of the world. These changes in fatherhood did not originate with the Revolution but were part of a longer historical movement which included the writings of John Locke, desacralization, subtle changes in the family economy, and a rise in individualism. It is my assertion, however, that the Revolution highlighted and accelerated these forces of change.

Included in

History Commons



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