As many of our readers know, the path-breaking social historian Alfred F. Young passed away last November. I learned a lot from Young’s The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution. I have come to rely on this book in my own work on the memory of a “tea party” that occurred in the small town of Greenwich, NJ in 1774.
To understand why Young spent so many years between his first big book on New York political parties and the publication of the biography of George Roberts Twelves Hewes, one has to appreciate that he was an eminently giving person who devoted himself to helping others — tirelessly reading drafts of essays and dissertation chapters, responding to questions from those he had never met, and pushing young scholars to contribute to volumes of original essays on American radicalism. This made him “the dean of artisan studies,” as one historian put it some years ago. In this vital role as network builder, gatekeeper, and facilitator-in-chief, he poured himself into searching out new work that ran against the grain and could be brought together for volumes on American radicalism. In the first, Dissent: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (1968), Young showcased the work of young scholars bucking the consensus tide. In the second, The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (1976), twelve essays covered the experiences of revolutionary women, Native American, African Americans, religious radicals, agrarian rebels, and urban mobs. In the third, Beyond the American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (1993), ten essayists reflected broadly on the impact of the Revolution.