Stokesbury (A Short History of the Korean War, 1988, etc.; History/Acadia Univ., Nova Scotia) again displays his exceptional ability to boil down vast historic materials into a first-rate one- volume narrative. Here, Stokesbury writes of the perilous, painful, and incredible birth of the US from 13 weak and divided colonies that had the temerity to call themselves ``states.'' His historian's judgment is tested by the task of giving proper weight to myriad military, social, and political events while composing a balanced survey spiced with cogent insights and concise analyses. Long before the first shot was fired at Lexington, he shows, descendants of Britons, Celts, and Europeans had been changed into a distinct independent type called ``American'' by their struggles in a subsistence society carved from the wilderness. Stokesbury feels that the Revolution became a kind of civil war, with about 50,000 Loyalists fighting on the British side. He sees the sufferings of the Revolution as bringing together men from various sections who fought together in a seemingly lost cause. Americans became free to form a new kind of government that has actually worked for two centuries, despite a bloody Civil War, and has become a model for the world. Stokesbury finds that Americans asserted a new belief in the right of all to choose their own government and make their own way--an idea, he says, that applies to all people for all time. Authoritative yet accessible: another fine showing by Stokesbury.