THE GROWTH OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1766-1775 by Bernhard Knollenberg


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The author, Librarian of Yale University since 1938, died in 1973; this is a sequel to his Origins of the American Revolution 1759-1766 (1965). A straightforward narrative based on immense study of primary sources, the work has a contagious scholarly excitement and unabashed pro-Revolutionary sentiments (""My sympathies are with the colonial Whigs"") as Knollenberg documents the developing war on both sides of the Atlantic. His purpose was to emphasize the intensity of the conflict well before 1775 and to map factional alignments, especially in Britain. He succeeds in making it very hard indeed to argue that the War of Independence was just a little intra-imperial tiff which might easily have been averted or smoothed over. Knollenberg shows that so many incidents of violence had occurred against British troops and customs officers -- the Boston Massacre of 1770 being merely the most dramatic -- that war was inevitable, despite middle-of-the-road attempts by Britain's Lord North government. Knollenberg makes extensive and exuberant use of the pro-Americans on both sides, including John Dickinson's ""Farmer's Letters"" and Pitt's pleas to end crushing colonial taxation; however, the book does not extend to direct examination of England's political economy at this conjunction. Some readers may be put off by Knollenberg's rather rigid chronological structure, and certain scholars may regret the lack of a nifty new thesis beyond an insistence upon the severity and world-historical importance of the conflict. But the scope of Knollenberg's sources and his old-fashioned passion for his subject are exceptionally rewarding on all fronts.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1975
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan