A clear, authoritative, well-organized look at the messy Colonial march toward revolution and self-rule.
In this broad history, eminent historian Taylor (History/Univ. of Virginia; The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, 2013, etc.), who has won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, and the Bancroft Prize, underscores the myriad complex facets to the rebellion against British authority starting in the mid-18th century, especially the westward thrust to settle newly won Indian territory. Between 1754 and 1763, at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War, the British and their colonists had conquered French Canada and claimed the West as far as the Mississippi River. The colonists naturally assumed they would “share in the imperial fruits of victory,” but instead, the British authorities aimed to exert greater control over the Colonies, restricting speculation west of the Appalachians by proclamation and extracting much-needed revenue from them to pay for the costly war. Considering themselves “free-born Englishmen,” the colonists hoped for a great partnership with the mother country, but they were treated as “distant and wayward inferiors.” Compounding the tension, notes the author, was the vacuum of civil government left by the British in the lands to the West between restive Colonial settlers and the resentful Indians. Taylor superbly emphasizes the key role of slaves in the revolutionary period—namely, the contradiction of the colonists’ claiming the language of liberty while possessing slaves (to the ridicule by Britons)—and the role of women in spurring and aiding the rebels. Moreover, the author impressively relays the sense of torn loyalties and how the revolutionary associations empowered the common man to step up and participate. He moves through the Revolution itself to the complicated aftermath of partisan politics, exacerbated by the global conflict ignited by the French Revolution. His final chapters on “Partisans” and “Legacies” delineate the first sticky political schisms and the vast postwar challenges in terms of culture, gender, race, and economy.
Beautifully organized and accessibly presented history for all readers.