We are happy to welcome Eric Sterner to our Third Annual Symposium on the American Revolution, co-hosted with Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, The Lyceum and Emerging Revolutionary War. This year’s theme is “The World Turned Upside: The American Revolution’s Impact on a Global Scale. We asked Eric to answer a few questions about their talk and their passion for history.
Eric Sterner is a writer focusing on American history, particularly the Revolutionary War and Civil War. He writes frequently for the Journal of the American Revolution (http://allthingsliberty.com) and blogs regularly at the Emerging Revolutionary War Era (http://emergingrevolutionarywar.org) in addition to contributing to other publications over the years. Westholme Publishing released his book: Anatomy of a Massacre: The Destruction of Gnadenhutten, 1782 in 2020. He is currently working on a micro history of the Crawford Campaign (1782) and a survey of George Rogers Clark’s Illinois Campaign (1778-1779).
In his prior life, Eric worked in the fields of national security and aerospace, holding senior staff positions for two different Congressional committees and serving at the Department of Defense and NASA. In the private sector, he worked in the fields of national security policy analysis and telecommunications and then held fellowships at the George C. Marshall Institute and the American Foreign Policy Council. At both places, his work focused on national security, cyber-power, and space policy and appeared in the academic, trade, and popular media. He also taught graduate courses in cyber power at Missouri State University, Georgetown, and George Washington University. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Soviet and International Studies and
What first attracted you to the study of early American history? What keeps you involved in the study of this history? Do you find these things are the same or different?
I was born in the Land of Lincoln, but as a kid, we often visited our grandparents outside Philadelphia, touring the local sites. My great-grandfather sometimes took us on walks through Valley Forge and the memories stuck. History became a hobby after that, but stories about real people and events always held more fascination than fiction. So, when the opportunity came later in life to pursue that interest with intensity, it was only natural to take it.
Why do you think it is important for us to study the Revolutionary Era?
We still wrestle with many of the same questions as the founding generation: what conditions warrant rebellion, how to prevent the abuse of power, how to secure individual liberty, how to determine and enact the majority’s will, etc. Despite their limitations, that generation’s answers to those questions are still relevant and illuminating.
What do you think was the most significant foreign impact on the American Revolution?
France’s declaration of war and alliance with the United States, followed by Spain’s declaration of War on Great Britain, transformed the Revolution into a global struggle. The stakes grew exponentially from an imperial and philosophical perspective and Britain immediately had to change its strategy.
What are some of the important lessons of the American Revolution do you think are still relevant today?
Warfare always exacerbates a tendency towards extremism, dehumanization, and excess, often reducing people to the most base instincts. Somehow, the Revolutionary War generation managed to overcome—in the main—the disastrous effects of these tendencies. While they failed to adhere to their ideals in many ways, principally by in leaving the institution of slavery in tact, the the fact that they managed to bridge differences, compromise, and create a republic in the aftermath of a war with so many facets is remarkable. Understanding how they did that and what it might require of us would serve the United States well 250 years later.
What was it about the American Revolution that elicited such global interest?
It is easy to focus on the effects of a colonial rebellion on European states with colonies all over the world. Clearly, a successful rebellion had implications for those colonies. But, Enlightenment ideas also popular in Europe ranged from the rationalization and efficiency of government institutions to more well-known and celebrated concepts of human individuality and the sources of sovereign authority. In many ways, the American Revolutionary Era was the first real-world test of those ideas. Thus, whether one opposed the Revolution for imperial reasons or supported it for philosophical ones, it could not help but fascinate the world.
Join us for our Third annual Emerging Revolutionary War Symposium on September 24, 2022. Emerging Revolutionary War is excited to continue our partnership with Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and The Lyceum of Alexandria, VA to bring to you a day-long Symposium focusing on the American Revolution.
Registration fee is now only $60 per person and $50 for OHA members and students. If you feel more comfortable attending virtually, the fee is $30. To register visit: https://shop.alexandriava.gov/EventPurchase.aspx