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SAR Annual Conference on the American Revolution

The SAR’s charter, granted by the United States Congress in 1906, enjoins the SAR to be an educational organization. As such, the SAR sponsors several educational programs, including the SAR Annual Conference on the American Revolution, which is designed to facilitate university-level study of the American Revolution.

The 2025 SAR Annual Conference on the American Revolution

George Washington’s Dilemmas:
Decisions that Helped Define a Nation

Annapolis, Maryland
June 6-8, 2025

The 2025 SAR Distinguished Scholars are
Robert M.S. McDonald, U.S. Military Academy
Seanegan P. Sculley, U.S. Military Academy.

Click here for a copy of the Call for Papers.

Details about hotel accommodations and conference registration will follow.

This conference shall commemorate the 250th anniversary of General Washington assuming command of the Continental Army. Thomas Jefferson observed that “the strongest feature of his [Washington’s] character was prudence” because he never acted “until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed.” John Hunter, a young traveler from Great Britain, observed that “he never undertakes anything without having first well considered of it and consulted different people. But when once he has begun anything, no obstacle or difficulty can come in his way.” This conference shall explore the care with which Washington confronted specific dilemmas, and how his decision-making process evolved during the course of his consequential life.

If you have any questions, please contact Joe Dooley


 

Previous SAR Annual Conferences

  1. 2024: The American Revolution: War on the Waters
  2. 2023: Contexts of the American Revolution
  3. 2022: The American Revolution on the Frontier
  4. 2021: Religion and the American Revolution
  5. 2020: Interpreting Independence: The Declaration Through the Generations
  6. 2019: Women Waging War in the American Revolution
  7. 2018: Spain and the American Revolution
  8. 2017: The Adams Family and the American Revolution
  9. 2016: Empires of Liberty and the American Revolution
  10. 2015: The Marquis de Lafayette and the European Friends of the American Revolution
  11. 2014: Women in the Era of the American Revolution
  12. 2013: Revolutionary Prophecies: The Founders on the Future
  13. 2012: Thomas Jefferson’s Lives: Biography as a Construction of History
  14. 2011: Slavery & Liberty: Black Patriots of the American Revolution
  15. 2010: Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés

Future SAR Annual Conferences

The Purposes of the SAR Annual Conference

How the SAR Annual Conference Works

University of Virginia Press

History of the SAR Annual Conference


Previous SAR Annual Conferences


2024
The American Revolution: War on the Waters
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was C.C. Felker, US Naval Academy. This conference was dedicated to James C. Bradford. This conference considered maritime operations during the War for Independence. Topics included the influence of geographic and environmental factors on naval operations, the globalization of the War, American privateers, the Continental Navy and Marines, the West Indies as a distraction to British political objectives, Royal Navy tactical doctrine and decision-making, and the contribution of American sailors and marines to the creation of an American identity.

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2023
Contexts of the American Revolution
This conference was co-sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Patrick Griffin, University of Notre Dame. This conference was dedicated to Frank Cogliano, and explored the ways in which we may frame the seminal events of the late eighteenth century. Should the American Revolution be situated in a global, hemispheric, or continental context? Or are imperial, national, Atlantic, or regional frames more appropriate? Are there other contexts, or must we combine our frames of reference, to enhance our understanding of the American Revolution?

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2022
The American Revolution on the Frontier
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Seanegan P. Sculley, U.S. Military Academy. This conference was dedicated to Colin G. Calloway. The conference considered how similar was the war on the frontier to the war on the east coast; how Native Americans factored in the Anglo-American conflict; and, how the war impacted settlements on the frontier, both during and immediately following the conflict.

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2021
Religion and the American Revolution
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Katherine Carté, Southern Methodist University. This conference was dedicated to Amanda Porterfield. Religious ideas motivated American resistance and loyalism. The conference considered the complex role of religion in the American Revolution, the ways that religious minorities experienced the political upheavals of the period, and the decline of formal religious establishments in the United States. The papers from this conference are expected to be published as The Consequences of Conflict: The American Revolution and Religion. This is a working title.

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2020
Interpreting Independence: The Declaration Through the Generations
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Seanegan P. Sculley, U.S. Military Academy. This conference was dedicated to James Kirby Martin. The conference explored how the Declaration of Independence has evolved into an expression of national identity, and more, a moral compass of what it means to be an American. This conference also considered how the Declaration has been understood and used in a myriad of ways, and for a number of purposes.

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2019
Women Waging War in the American Revolution
This conference was co-sponsored by the Museum of the American Revolution. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Holly A. Mayer, Duquesne University. This conference was dedicated to Carol Berkin. Women acted in the War for Independence; they did not just react, and their agency informed this conference. The conference examined how women fought the Revolution: that is, fought for it, fought against it, and fought in it, as warriors, followers, and activists. The papers from this conference were published as Women Waging War in the American Revolution (2022).
Women Waging War
Spain and the American Revolution 2018
Spain and the American Revolution
This conference was co-sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Gabriel Paquette, Johns Hopkins University. This conference was dedicated to Sylvia L. Hilton and David Armitage. The conference explored Spain’s significant contributions to the American War for Independence. Spain and Britain clashed repeatedly during the global war of which the American Revolution was but one theater – in the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast and Florida, Minorca, and Gibraltar. The papers from this conference were published as Spain and the American Revolution: New Approaches and Perspectives (2020).

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2017
The Adams Family and the American Revolution
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Richard A. Samuelson, California State University, San Bernardino. This conference was dedicated to the memory of Lyman H. Butterfield. The conference explored the Adams family’s understanding of the nature, meaning, and significance of the American Revolution over the generations from John and Abigail to Henry and Brooks Adams.

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2016
Empires of Liberty and the American Revolution
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Richard A. Samuelson, California State University, San Bernardino. This conference was dedicated to Jack P. Greene. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and others wrote of the future of the United States in terms of an “empire of liberty.” Given the republican leanings of America’s founding generation, this imperial language is jarring, and perhaps paradoxical. Even so, it reminds us that the American Revolution grew out of a crisis in the British Empire, and that the imperial problems the colonists faced in the 1760s and 1770s did not go away in 1776.

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European Friends
2015
The Marquis de Lafayette and the European Friends of the American Revolution
This conference was co-sponsored by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and The Friends of Hermione – Lafayette in America. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, University of Virginia. This conference was dedicated to the memory of Jacques Godechot and R.R. Palmer. The conference explored the roles played by several European powers in the American Revolution. The papers from this conference were published as European Friends of the American Revolution (2023).
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2014
Women in the Era of the American Revolution
This conference was co-sponsored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, with support from the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Barbara Oberg, Princeton University. This conference was dedicated to the memory of Pauline Maier. The conference examined the significant disruptions in daily life and changed expectations of what a woman’s place in a marriage, the household, and the community “ought” to be. Women supported boycotts of British goods and encouraged manufacturing at home; they raised funds to feed and clothe the troops; they supported the family by managing the farm or family business. The papers from this conference were published as Women in the American Revolution: Gender, Politics, and the Domestic World (2019).

Women in the Era of the American Revolution
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Revolutionary Prophecies: The Founders on the Future
2013
Revolutionary Prophecies: The Founders on the Future
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Robert M.S. McDonald, U.S. Military Academy. This conference was dedicated to the memory of Lance Banning. The conference focused on what several founders hoped or expected for the future of the United States. The papers from this conference were published as Revolutionary Prophecies: The Founders and America’s Future (2021).
2012
Thomas Jefferson’s Lives: Biography as a Construction of History
This conference was co-sponsored by the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Robert M.S. McDonald, U.S. Military Academy. This conference was dedicated to Peter S. Onuf. The conference explored how Thomas Jefferson has been viewed by different biographers for nearly two centuries. The papers from this conference were published as Thomas Jefferson’s Lives: Biographers and the Battle for History (2019).
Thomas Jefferson’s Lives: Biography as a Construction of History

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2011
Slavery & Liberty: Black Patriots of the American Revolution
The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Robert M.S. McDonald, U.S. Military Academy. This conference was dedicated to the memory of Benjamin A. Quarles. The conference explored the contribution of black patriots, both enslaved and free, and sought to broaden our understanding about why African Americans helped to secure the liberty of a nation that proved ambivalent about their place in American society.

 

Sons of the Father 2010
Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés
This conference was co-sponsored by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The SAR Distinguished Scholar was Robert M.S. McDonald, U.S. Military Academy. This conference was dedicated to the memory of Don Higginbotham. The conference explored the dynamics of Washington’s relationships with a number of men who served with him or under him, both military and civilian. The papers from this conference were published as Sons of the Father: George Washington and His Protégés (2013)


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Future SAR Annual Conferences

2026
All Men are Created Equal: Freedom, Slavery, and Race in the American Revolution
The SAR Distinguished Scholar will be John A. Ruddiman, Wake Forest University. This conference will explore the role of African Americans in the American Revolution – free and enslaved, patriots and loyalists. The conference will also consider the impact of the Revolution on the institution of slavery. “More African-Americans secured their liberty during the American War for Independence than in any other moment prior to the Civil War.” (Christopher Brown, Columbia University)

2027
Resisting the Revolution: Militant Loyalism During the War for Independence
The SAR Distinguished Scholar will be T. Cole Jones, Purdue University. This conference will focus on loyalist resistance to American independence during the Revolutionary War.

2028
Title To Be Determined
The SAR Distinguished Scholar will be Seanegan P. Sculley, U.S. Military Academy. This conference shall commemorate the 250th anniversary of an American military presence at West Point, New York. A more detailed description shall follow.

2029
We the States: Constituting Governments in the American Revolution
The SAR Distinguished Scholar will be Mark Boonshoft, Virginia Military Institute. This conference will focus on the removal of royal governments within the rebelling colonies, and the establishment of republican governments within the newly independent states during the American Revolution.


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The Purposes of the SAR Annual Conference

  1. To hold a high quality, intellectually stimulating, annual academic conference that explores a subject related to the American Revolution.
  2. To produce a peer-reviewed, edited volume of the papers presented at any given SAR Annual Conference on the American Revolution.


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How the SAR Annual Conference Works

The SAR names an SAR Distinguished Scholar who should be a professor of history, government or American studies at an accredited university. His/her primary field of study should be in an area that is related to, or covers the period of, the American Revolution.

In general, the SAR Distinguished Scholar is in charge of all things academic, while the SAR Annual Conference Director is in charge of all conference logistics (e.g., travel, hotel arrangements). That said, to the extent possible, the SAR Distinguished Scholar and the Conference Director should communicate with each other regularly, and freely exchange thoughts and ideas about the SAR Annual Conference(s) they plan together.

The SAR Distinguished Scholar devises a topic for the SAR Annual Conference that he/she will lead. He/she lines up the scholars who will present papers at the conference. Following the conference, the SAR Distinguished Scholar shepherds the conference papers for publication by an academic press. The papers from each SAR Annual Conference should be published in a peer-reviewed, edited volume.


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With one exception, all the edited volumes based on papers presented at SAR Annual Conferences, have been published by the University of Virginia Press. The cloth edition of Spain and the American Revolution: New Approaches and Perspectives was published by Routledge, a subdivision and imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group. The paperback edition of this book was published by the University of Virginia Press.


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History of the SAR Annual Conference

In August 2008, the NSSAR Executive Committee, chaired by President General David N. Appleby, approved a proposal by Joseph W. Dooley to establish the SAR Annual Conference on the American Revolution. President General Appleby named Mr. Dooley as the SAR Annual Conference Director. Mr. Dooley approached Robert M.S. McDonald of the United States Military Academy to serve as the first SAR Distinguished Scholar. Prof. McDonald accepted, and proposed a topic for the first SAR Annual Conference, to convene at West Point in June 2010.

At the Fall 2008 meeting of the SAR National Trustees, Mr. Dooley reported on the actions of the Executive Committee regarding the SAR Annual Conference and discussed the concept and structure of the conference. The Trustees voted to approve the establishment of the SAR Annual Conference on the American Revolution.

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