It Takes More Than One Leg to Make a Table…

Detail: 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center

The recent trend among historians to embrace the overlap of different historiographical fields is immensely beneficial, for to research and discuss the past as if different parts of society act in isolation is absurd.

For example, consider the American War for Independence (1775-1783.) Many traditional accounts of this event by military historians discuss battles upon battles in an epic series of sieges, retreats, victories, and defeats that eventually culminated in the Battle of Yorktown (1781.) Generals like Washington, Knox, Clinton, and Howe dominate this narrative. Such histories also tend to mention the involvement of politicians, women, and children as a mere preamble to the war itself, if they mention those actors at all.1 

However, recent historians such as Carol Berkin, who combines many different fields of historiography to understand the Revolutionary War, acknowledge that even the likes of Washington made decisions and moved troops based on the political climate at any given moment and acknowledged that the Continental Army could not function without auxiliary aid from civilians, providing a more realistic view of that conflict.2  The Commander and Chief himself remarked, “In a word I was obliged to give Provisions to the extra women in [parts of the army] or loose by Desertion—perhaps to the Enemy—some of the oldest and best Soldiers in the Service.”3


1. History com Editors, “Revolutionary War,” HISTORY, accessed October 20, 2019,

2. Berkin, Carol. Revolutionary Mothers : Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.

3. “Founders Online: From George Washington to Robert Morris, 29 January 1783,” accessed October 20, 2019,