CFPs The Meaning of Independence

October 21-22, 2021, APS, Philadelphia

As the United States nears the 250th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence, the David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society is organizing an international conference on “The Meanings of Independence,” to be held in Philadelphia in October 2021. The conference aims to convene leading and emerging scholars of the era, museum and library professionals, leaders of cultural institutions, teachers at all levels, public intellectuals, and engaged members of the public for two days of discussion about the meaning and import of the American Revolution in the twenty-first century.

We invite proposals from scholars and professionals at all levels of their careers whose work can contribute to this conversation. Conference organizers hope to highlight new scholarship on the causes, course, and consequences of the American Revolution; the lived experience of the Revolution; its place within a global context; innovative plans for commemorations in 2026; and compelling digital and new media scholarship that presents the era in a new light and to a wide audience.  

Potential topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

Origins :

New interpretations of the cause of the American Revolution

Examinations of overlooked events and individuals that cast new light on the Revolution’s cause

Experiences :

The role of warfare on society and its lasting significance 

The meanings and consequences of independence, for the various peoples affected by war and political upheaval—including loyalists, enslaved men and women, Indigenous peoples, and non-combatants

Perspectives from the top-down and bottom-up, and their interplay throughout the course of the Revolution

Global Contexts:

Papers that place the Revolution within the Age of Atlantic Revolutions

The effects of the American Revolution around the globe within its own time and after it, including to the present day

Other comparative frameworks that help elucidate elements of the Revolution


The changing meaning of the Revolution for those who lived through it

Research that interrogates the idea of a founding moment or moments, including papers that provide a comparative perspective from other countries

Legacies of independence in shaping lives, institutions, and ideals of citizenship and patriotism

Examinations of past commemorations as well as plans for future ones

Teaching the Revolution, past, present, and future 

Innovative digital and archival projects that provide new access to study of the era

We welcome proposals that touch on these topics, or on related ones. We will consider papers employing a range of approaches—historical, literary, religious, environmental, legal, political, or focused on material culture, gender, Native American and Indigenous studies, public history, digital scholarship, and otherwise.

The committee hopes this conference can generate ideas and produce conversations that last beyond this event. In order to maximize the opportunity for informal and formal discussion and collaboration, conference organizers plan to hold this gathering in-person. Should travel in October be unadvisable, the conference will be rescheduled for Spring 2022. While the conference will be held in person, organizers are determined to create meaningful opportunities for those unable to attend in person to participate.

All presenters will receive travel subsidies and hotel accommodations. Accepted papers will be due a month before the conference and pre-circulated to registered attendees. Papers should be no longer than 15 double-spaced pages. Presenters may also have the opportunity to publish revised papers in the APS’s Transactions, one of the longest running scholarly series in America.

Applicants should submit a title, a 250-word proposal, and a C.V. by April 15, 2021 via Interfolio:

Decisions will be announced in June 2021.

For more information, visit, or contact Kyle Roberts, Associate Director for Library and Museum Programming at or Adrianna Link, Head of Scholarly Programs, at

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