Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

7/1/2012 - 6/30/2013

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Liberty is Sweet: An Integrated History of the American Revolution

FAIN: FB-56562-12

Woody Holton
University of Richmond (Richmond, VA 23173-0001)

Books about the American Revolution fall into two distinct categories--popular and academic--and to read either, you would think the other did not exist. "Liberty is Sweet" seeks points of convergence between the traditional story of the War of Independence and the vast body of scholarship on the social history of the founding era that has appeared in the last thirty years. My primary qualification for this admittedly-daunting task is that my three previous monographs draw attention to the frequent ability of seemingly powerless groups--Indians and slaves in "Forced Founders," indebted and overtaxed farmers in "Unruly Americans," and women in "Abigail Adams"--to influence grand political events such as the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. "Liberty is Sweet" will demonstrate to general readers that second-generation social history offers intriguing answers to many of their oldest questions about the American Revolution.

Media Coverage

Interview with Woody Holton (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Jamelle Bouie
Publication: Ezra Klein podcast
Date: 10/24/2021
Abstract: podcast with up to one million listeners sponsored by New York Times

Associated Products

Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution (Book)
Title: Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution
Author: Woody Holton
Abstract: Using more than a thousand eyewitness accounts, Liberty Is Sweet explores countless connections between the Patriots of 1776 and other Americans whose passion for freedom often brought them into conflict with the Founding Fathers. “It is all one story,” prizewinning historian Woody Holton writes. Holton describes the origins and crucial battles of the Revolution from Lexington and Concord to the British surrender at Yorktown, always focusing on marginalized Americans—enslaved Africans and African Americans, Native Americans, women, and dissenters—and on overlooked factors such as weather, North America’s unique geography, chance, misperception, attempts to manipulate public opinion, and (most of all) disease. Thousands of enslaved Americans exploited the chaos of war to obtain their own freedom, while others were given away as enlistment bounties to whites. Women provided material support for the troops, sewing clothes for soldiers and in some cases taking part in the fighting. Both sides courted native people and mimicked their tactics. Liberty Is Sweet gives us our most complete account of the American Revolution, from its origins on the frontiers and in the Atlantic ports to the creation of the Constitution. Offering surprises at every turn—for example, Holton makes a convincing case that Britain never had a chance of winning the war—this majestic history revivifies a story we thought we already knew.
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Secondary URL:
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-1476750378
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes

Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution (Book)
Title: Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution
Author: Woody Holton
Abstract: In Liberty is Sweet, Woody Holton’s “hidden history” of the American Revolution, nothing is quite what it seems. The painting on the cover seems conventional: a pistol-wielding Patriot foot-soldier captures two British horsemen…but the Patriot turns out to be a woman in drag. The phrase “Liberty is Sweet” sounds like the sentiments of Jefferson or Franklin but actually comes from a 1775 letter describing George Washington’s slaves’ aspirations to escape Mount Vernon. Holton entitles his preface “Invisible Enemies” in a nod to the Native Americans who were long omitted from the story of American Independence but actually played a crucial role in bringing on the Revolutionary War and shaping its course. And these are far from the only surprises in Holton’s astounding reappraisal of the founding of the United States.
Year: 2021
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1476750378


Finalist, Virginia Literary Awards
Date: 10/24/2022
Organization: Library of VIrginia