One of the things that set Pauline Maier apart was the exuberance she brought to the work of history. That joyful zeal is charmingly expressed in the metaphor she used to evoke the intellectual atmosphere in which she wrote her dissertation and first book, From Resistance to Revolution (1972). “In the heady days of the 1960s,” she recalled in 1991, a group of Bernard Bailyn’s graduate students shared the exciting “conviction” that “a great historical paradigm, an interpretation of the Revolution that had stood for most of the century, was collapsing like some great empire, and that another, equally powerful, was already coming into view” (v-vi). It was, indeed, a “‘revolution’ in historical understanding” (ix).
That “revolution” would come to be known as the “republican synthesis,” a body of scholarship that defined itself against the Progressive’s largely economic interpretations and that reinvigorated the study of the American Revolution by taking the revolutionaries’ ideas seriously. Taking their cue from the work of Caroline Robbins, Edmund Morgan, and Bailyn himself, a young cohort—including Maier, Gordon Wood, Jack Rakove, the late Michael Kammen, and others—excavated the mental world of revolutionary America. These scholars emphasized the significance of an eighteenth-century constellation of radical political ideas, which derived from English republican theorists of the seventeenth century. Above all, this Whig political philosophy hailed the virtue of a constitution that balanced the power of the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the people. The calibration was a fragile one, though, and any encroachment by one part upon the rights and liberties of another merited strenuous resistance.
When Bailyn and his students realized that this intellectual framework shaped how early Americans interpreted events and the political world around them, they dubbed it an “ideology.” Suddenly, colonial conspiracy theories and nervous eighteenth-century chatter about American enslavement at the hands of British tyrants seemed less like propaganda, as the Progressives had characterized them, and more like honest-to-god political stances. Maier called this set of ideas “Real Whig” ideology; others called it more simply “republicanism.” All agreed that this constellation somehow held the keys to understanding why early Americans declared independence and wrote a Constitution. But the precise details of that story became the subject of a debate that consumed much of field’s energy for decades, and that, in some corners, rages still.
Maier’s contribution in From Resistance to Revolution was to bring this ideological interpretation back down to the level of events—to show the ideas in action. The Whig tradition, Maier argued, legitimated resistance to imperial policies that many Americans considered oppressive. But it also dictated that those protests had to be orderly, restrained, and targeted against only those officials who had forfeited their authority through “unlawful” acts. Real Whigs considered themselves heirs to the ostensibly peaceful, consensual revolution of 1688; they “were obliged to be the most careful of revolutionaries” (42).
Therefore, beginning with the Stamp Act riots, leaders of colonial mobs sought to minimize violence and channel popular energies into protests that, in their scope and their aims, could be called legitimate. By the late 1760s, they were pursuing this goal through organized groups like the Sons of Liberty, nonimportation associations, local committees, conventions, and congresses. Sure, these groups were extralegal. But in their attempt to embody Whig “revolution principles,” they were also legalistic, claiming authority based upon the contractual consent of voluntary members, who in turn were held accountable for their actions. As Real Whig ideas led American radicals to implicate more and more of the British government—first the ministries, then Parliament, and finally the king himself—in the perceived conspiracy against their liberties, Maier argued, these groups “increasingly assumed the functions of civil government” (114). Nonimportation associations, for example, implemented due process—inspecting, judging, and punishing—and claimed to represent public opinion.
The revolutionaries would carry those experiences with them after 1775, when they became disillusioned with the British people as a whole, and into 1776, when Tom Paine convinced them that the British constitution wasn’t worth salvaging. After independence, to be sure, the old Sons of Liberty began to quarrel over vital questions of how to create a working republic. But much of the “revolution in constitutional forms,” Maier argued, had already occurred (272). The structures and habits of republican self-government in America emerged from both the ideology and the practice of colonial resistance.
Forty-one years after its publication, From Resistance to Revolution remains, in many ways, the classic and still-current account of how American colonists moved, step by step, towards their decisive break with Britain. The book’s rigor and accessibility have clenched its position as the go-to guide for classroom lecturers and the general public alike. It would be difficult to overstate its significance to the august body of work on the origins of the American Revolution. So I won’t try. (Though I’d be glad if we did, together, in the comments section.) Rather, I’ll attempt something a bit weird: to highlight several aspects of the book’s enduring legacy by pointing to three of the ways in which people have critiqued it.
First, the matter of rhetoric and reality. Reviewing Maier’s book in the New York Times Book Review, Gordon Wood wondered, “Was it in fact a revolution by the rules, or did the Whig participants merely think it was?” By “describing events almost always as [the Whigs] perceived them,” Wood continued, Maier “continually runs the risk of confusing her views with those of the participants.” Samuel Adams himself might as well have written this book!
There’s certainly something to this critique. And yet more than anything else, Wood’s complaint highlights the fact that Maier was more concerned with on-the-ground political processes than almost any other contributor to the ideological interpretation of the Revolution. At least she was describing experience and events. Many of Maier’s compatriots in the Bailyn shop, not least Wood himself, oftentimes wandered from political history into a frustratingly disembedded history of political philosophy. At the same time, however, Maier was far more attentive to political discourse than were those historians, such as Gary Nash and Jesse Lemisch, who interpreted the Revolution from the bottom-up.
The legacy I see here is twofold. First, Maier demonstrated just how much a scholar can do by writing a history of both ideas and events, in ways that seem to me to have inspired many of the questions and methods that drove the subsequent generation of New New Political Historians. That ever-elusive sweet spot—where ideas and action, process and perception, meet—was the source of Maier’s powerful argument about why the revolutionaries opted for republican self-government after independence, and about how they learned its ins and outs through the work of colonial resistance. There’s the second legacy on this front: Maier’s narrative stuck mainly to the decade before 1776, but her thesis connected the Revolution’s origins to its outcome. That’s an impressive argumentative span, and one that too few scholars attempt nowadays. It stands as a model and a challenge to the next generation of historians of the American Revolution.
Critique number two is that British politics seem rather distant from Maier’s analysis. American Whigs react again and again to provocations from the metropole, but Maier never really pauses to analyze and explain that thrust of imperial policy. We get a British North American perspective and response, but little sense of what it all was a perspective on and a response to. To the extent that Maier’s driving question was Why was there an American Revolution?, she provides only half an answer, and so a full causal argument never quite comes together.
That said, Maier’s scope of vision didn’t entirely stop at the water’s edge. She was attentive to transatlantic imperial resistance and radical reform movements—the “International Sons of Liberty,” as her sixth chapter labeled them, including Italian radical Pascal Paoli, Irish reformers, and John Wilkes and his Whig supporters in England. Between 1768 and 1772, Maier argued, all of these reformers suffered major setbacks, which “led American radicals to reassess successively the British ministry, the Parliament, and finally the Crown itself, until they came to doubt the possibility of maintaining freedom under British rule. . . . Through the failure of radicals abroad the colonists themselves were pushed, clearly if reluctantly, on the path toward revolution” (163). And here, again, critique melts into legacy. Maier’s tantalizing sketch of a transatlantic resistance movement pointed the way towards what is now an emerging reassessment of the global politics of the British Empire in crisis.
Finally, a critique from the left. From Resistance to Revolution, of course, was written in the heat of the twentieth century’s greatest swell of radical protest movements. So when I first read the book, I cocked an eyebrow at her curious caveat: “I have emphasized here the radicals’ concern for order not because it fits current uneasiness about protest,” she wrote, “but because it is historically significant” (xxi). What kind of politics, I wondered, undergirded an historical argument in which middling and elite leaders restrain the “mob”—in which resistance plays out largely by the rules?
But after reading more of her work and seeing her in action at the seminar table, I soon became convinced that the question was misguided. As Gordon Wood recently wrote, Pauline Maier was “a historian’s historian,” relentlessly focused upon historical context, and more devoted to recovering an accurate past than a usable one. Her example, in this regard, stands in my mind as her greatest scholarly legacy. From Resistance to Revolution exemplifies our craft. Maier followed the evidence and sought to explain it—period—even if it led to conclusions that jar with the political sensibilities of much of the modern profession. She herself said it best: “The challenge of history,” she wrote, “is one of surmounting the self and time, of discovering the surprising differentness of the past . . . . Perhaps that can be done only imperfectly and impermanently. But the effort is worth making, if only for the joy of it” (xiii).
 Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991 [orig. 1972]).
 From Resistance to Revolution emphasizes how ideology conditioned political action. In that regard, it makes for a nifty pairing with Tim Breen’s Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), which elaborates the ways in which political experience during the imperial crisis made Americans more receptive to radical Whig ideology.
 Gordon S. Wood, review of From Resistance to Revolution, New York Times Book Review, 21 May 1972.
 Maier actually made this last point herself in a recent assessment of the state of the field; the gap between colonial and revolutionary/early republic history was one of three “Disjunctions in Early American History,” Historically Speaking 6:4 (March/April 2005): 19-22.
Ooh! One more thing, on the matter of disagreements within the Bailyn shop. Maier’s argument that 1787 didn’t repudiate but rather codified the ideas of 1776 stands in sharp contrast to Wood’s argument in Creation of the American Republic. I won’t get into all the nitty gritty details here, but they amount to a deep-rooted disagreement about what was actually at stake in the American Revolution—a debate that, it seems to me, goes too often unrecognized in renderings of the historiographical landscape like Alfred F. Young and Gregory H. Nobles, Whose American Revolution Was It? Historians Interpret the Founding (New York: New York University Press, 2011). Maier succinctly outlined her disagreements with Wood in “A Pearl in a Gnarled Shell: Gordon S. Wood’s The Creation of the American Republic Reconsidered,” William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, 44 (1987) 582-590.
 Maier’s preface framed this question this way: “When and why did the colonists reshape their views of the Mother Country and her once revered constitution?” (xvii).
 Much recent scholarship could be cited here, but I’m thinking particularly of Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy’s work and of Justin duRivage’s exciting new dissertation, “Taxing Empire: Political Economy and the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, 1747-1776” (Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 2013).
 Gordon Wood, “Pauline Maier: In Memoriam,” American Political Thought 2:2 (fall 2013), vi.