As a newly minted Ph.D. in 1958, Alfred Young bucked historical conventions, which gave a central place to high politics, political biography, and elite intellectual history. In The Democratic Republicans of New York (1967), Young studied the political movements and aspirations of the "meaner sort" of the Revolutionary era, placing them within a broader class analysis of politics. In its focus on the popular classes, on social conflict, and on the Revolution as the occasion for unleashing popular politics, Young anticipated many of the themes and interpretations that distinguish studies of the Revolution over the next two decades.
Young then embarked on an ambitious study of Boston artisans during the Revolutionary era. In other articles and lectures, Young explored the transmission of English popular rituals and traditions to the colonies and their mobilization during the Revolution, the transformations of artisans consciousness and politics, and the impact of popular politics on the drafting of the Constitution.