AN EMPIRE DIVIDED by Andrew J. O'Shaughnessy


The American Revolution and the British Caribbean
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An important scholarly study of how the major colonies of the British West Indies, by not seeking independence alongside the mainland colonies in 1776, contributed to the outcome of the American Revolution.

We tend to forget that 13 British colonies in the Western Hemisphere (those in the Caribbean) did not join the 13 others (those on the continent to the north) in the great 18th-century war for independence from Great Britain. Why? Most historians have cited the islands' vulnerability to British naval attack if they rebelled, their dependence on British markets for their sugar crops, and planters' fear of slave insurrections. O'Shaughnessy (Univ. of Wisconsin, Oshkosh) greatly amplifies these reasons in this comprehensive survey of a question whose answer is necessary for a full understanding of the success of the American revolutionary war. This is the first effort to bring together in a single volume what we know so far about the islands' resistance to rebellion, how their defense by the British siphoned off resources from fighting on the mainland, and how the Revolution's outcome forever affected the islands' history. O'Shaughnessy correctly makes much of the cultural affinities and political ties between the islands and their mother country—ties much stronger than those of most North American colonies. But he doesn't neglect economic or military factors and deftly outlines the divisions within and between the islands about the course to take. Those who might wish for what might have been—independent island nations—will be sobered by the weight of geography, demographics, and social norms that determined what turned out to be a history vastly different from our own, yet profoundly affecting it by helping make American independence possible.

Not the last, but for now the best, word on a subject basic to American and Caribbean history. (41 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 30th, 2000
ISBN: 0-8122-3558-4
Page count: 392pp
Publisher: Univ. of Pennsylvania
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2000