“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
This sentence from Common Sense, by Thomas Paine (one of my favorite revolutionaries) sums it all up for me. It is perhaps ridiculously simplistic, but it is there – the idea that when things are bad, we always have the ability to change – to begin anew.
Spanning time and culture, and for reasons religious, political, or economic, it happens – and often. Revolution. People rising up to say enough is enough. Some lead, others follow, but together they muster the strength to sacrifice and struggle in an effort make their world into a better place.
One of the few books I owned as a kid was a worn textbook on world history that I purchased at a school book sale. A big, heavy volume, the chapters covered many eras and events up to World War II. The thick glossy pages were chock-full of illustrations, timelines and photographs. I would pour over it, reading about my own country’s history, and the histories of countries and peoples far away, and of civilizations and empires long gone. I think because of this early, broad exposure, I now can’t point to a favorite historical time period or place – but I can say I was always particularly drawn to the events involving insurrection, rebellion and revolution. Large or small, joyfully successful or dismally inept, these political cataclysms have all the stuff I look for in a great story.
Of course, rebellions don’t always end well. Spartacus’s slave uprising was eventually squashed, and he was crucified together with 6,600 of his followers on the Appian Way, the bodies left to hang for years as a warning to future rebels. The Jacobite Rising in 1745 did not restore Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne. The confederacy of Native American tribes who banded together in Pontiac’s Rebellion did not drive the British from their lands, or put a stop to colonial expansion. History is rife with examples of failed efforts.
Revolution can also create strange dichotomies. The French Revolution propelled by cries of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” devolved into the Reign of Terror. Iconic Che Guevera is vilified as “the butcher of La Cabaña” by some, and also prayed to as “Saint Ernesto” by others.
And the revolutions that are deemed successful don’t ever seem to end in perfect solutions. The American Revolution created a radical form of self-governance based on a constitution that left women without a voice in representation, and the slavery issue unresolved.
For these reasons and more, revolutions in both the distant and recent past persist as the basis for novels, movies, and even Broadway musicals. Within rebellion there lies a classic David and Goliath quality – the weak making a courageous stand against the mighty. Revolts inherently abound in conflicts where courageous heroes and martyrs face brutal, tyrannical oppressors – creating the veritable petri dishes in which stories filled with daring, adventure and romance develop. Who can resist?
So I say “Up the Rebels!!”
Author Christine Blevins writes what she loves to read – historical adventure stories. Her debut novel Midwife of the Blue Ridge (August 2008) takes the reader to the wilds of 18th century colonial America, and was inspired by information unearthed while researching family history. Her second novel, The Tory Widow (April 2009) begins in New York City at the eve of rebellion, and is the result of a lifelong fascination with the foundations of American history and the revolutionary spirit. A native Chicagoan, Christine lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, along with her husband Brian, the younger two of their four children, and The Dude, a very silly golden-doodle. She is presently at work on the second novel in her Revolutionary War trilogy titled Hearts of Oak, which is due to be published in June, 2010, by Penguin/Berkley.
And now the giveaway details:
HUZZAH! Enter to win a signed copy of The Tory Widow, plus an Revolutionary America survival kit (lavender water and a hankie) by leaving a comment noting your favorite revolution. Entries will close on 15 May. Please note that entry is open to everyone! Good luck!