by Theodore Draper ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1996
In a compellingly argued review of events leading to the 1775 clash at Lexington and Concord, historian Draper (A Very Thin Line, 1991, etc.) contends that the American Revolution was not an ideological battle between democracy and monarchy; it was rather a pure struggle for power on the part of colonies that had experienced a significant but incomplete degree of economic and political self-determination. Deftly tracing the history of the English colonies in America, Draper asserts that British absorption of Canada (1760) and the consequent disappearance of the French threat to the Americans fatally weakened the tenuous ties that bound the colonies to the mother country. Moreover, perceptive thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic had long observed that the British economy needed the prosperous colonies (as sources of raw materials and as markets for British manufactures) far more than the Americans needed Britain. The Stamp Act, the Intolerable Acts, and British attempts to enforce the long-neglected Molasses Act invariably incurred resistance among colonists long accustomed to loose British reins. While by any contemporary measure British rule of the colonies was benevolent and enlightened, Draper argues that any British course of action would have met resistance, as colonists, tasting a heady mixture of liberty and prosperity, successively rejected British attempts to regulate their internal affairs, proposals for American representation in Parliament, and suggested links to the king independent of Parliament. For the British, supine acceptance of increasingly strident colonial demands was out of the question: Retention of the colonies was regarded as essential to Britain's standing as a great power. But, as Draper points out, by allowing the colonial leadership to unify and by not taking their resistance seriously enough from the outset, Britain lost the war before it had even started. A skillfully told, first-rate examination of the economic and political circumstances that made the American Revolution unavoidable.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996
Page Count: 608
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995
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