Prolific historian-biographer Hibbert (Charles I, Venice: Biography of a City, etc.) again demonstrates his talents for...



Prolific historian-biographer Hibbert (Charles I, Venice: Biography of a City, etc.) again demonstrates his talents for unobtrusive storytelling, deft character study, and careful research--in a skillfully crafted ""narrative history of the American War of Independence told largely from the British and Loyalist points of view."" From the first, as Hibbert paints it, England's well-meaning yet bungling prime minister, Lord North, dismissed the dangers of directing a war thousands of miles away in a land posing daunting geographic difficulties. His ministry's mistakes were paralleled by those of the high command, whose continual surprise at the scrappy Americans doomed thousands of valorous redcoats to pointless sacrifice. Marshaling a host of British and American sources, many little known, Hibbert makes telling observations on the British army's condition at the outbreak of the conflict, problems in recruiting, redcoat atrocities cited in American propaganda, and the initial broad support for the war at home. Yet his strongest suit is the concise biographical portrait--of affable colonial secretary Lord George Germain, who enraged his commanders-in-chief by refusing to meet their manpower needs; of Banastre Tarleton, the vainglorious, ruthless, and talented commander of the British Legion; of peevish Sir Henry Clinton, the English commander-in-chief who waited too long to reinforce Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. Two minor drawbacks of Hibbert's history are its Eastern Seaboard focus, which leaves little room to discuss naval strategy, and its occasional analysis unsupported by evidence. (One example that might come as news to Ireland and India: the war taught England ""a new conception of empire. . .as a political organization of peoples involving responsibilities as well as rights."") A colorful, John Bull's-eye treatment of the hearts-and-minds struggle over the wayward American colonies.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1990