America’s pre-revolutionary past did not pass into obscurity after the Revolution. Rather, it became even more important, developing a significant salience and resonance in American culture long after independence and the war. As unique as their situation was in the decades after the war, Americans understood there were things to be learned from their shared colonial past. More importantly, they understood that their colonial past could actually aid in helping to shape their republican present. Not only did the colonial past matter but they went even further by creating a deep national past that was instructive as well as entertaining, running through the very first examples of American fiction, poetry, drama, and cultural institutions. As the beginnings of American nationalism developed in these decades, the collective memory of Americans was shaped by their construction of the colonial past. Long after the Revolution there remained deep, abiding cultural continuities between the colonial period and the early republic, of which the past was one. Close study of history culture and these historical memories of the pre-revolutionary past in particular reveal those continuities and show some of the ways in which they were negotiated. Such study offers new insights into how early national America ...
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