This compact, judicious study of how the transatlantic breach came to war was written in long-distance collaboration by a University College, London, professor and his Williams College counterpart. Beginning with a useful survey of the demographic and economic components of the British Empire, the authors emphasize that a national debt vastly multiplied by the Seven Years' War forced Britain in 1763 to begin a push for expanded revenue from the colonists, who replied that ""the prosperity of all Britons depended upon the colonists themselves achieving the greatest possible prosperity and enjoying every freedom they thought conducive to that end."" Successive cabinets underestimated American resistance to the loss of not only income but de facto self-governing privileges. According to the authors, Parliament enjoyed the full support of ""the British people""--or at least the electors--in trying to bring the rebels to heel, while the strength of the pro-American mercantile ""Wilkesites"" in Britain was overestimated by Franklin and others. The book gives a decorous picture of the ministers responsible for American policy and their misapprehensions, followed by a graphic account of the Massachusetts uprising which showed the rebels' ability to mobilize forces from all over New England, and a brief account of key leaders' ""last resort"" conversion to the notion of independence. A readable introduction for those with some background, and a notably ""balanced"" reference.