Ponderous explication of the complex relationship between Britain and her 13 American colonies.
Black (History/Univ. of Exeter; Great Military Leaders and Their Campaigns, 2008, etc.) examines in minute detail the 18th-century roots of factors that have continued to shape British-U.S. relations for more than two centuries. Writing for scholars and students, he describes the events and machinations of the period, in which European powers Britain, France and Spain pursued expansionist impulses while groups in America, including colonists, Native Americans and African-Americans, sought to protect their interests. Against the background of British America’s growth in the 1600s, Black shows that the colonists often maintained close, friendly relations with Britain based on a shared identity, growing economic integration, cultural and religious links and a pressing need for support in the face of diverse external threats. Too often, he writes, historians have underrated “the extent to which colonists contributed to the development of the Empire” as well as “the Englishness (and from 1707 Britishness) of early America.” For all that, British policies and governance styles soon led to a civil war, aka the American Revolution, that few in the colonies actually wanted. The author’s British perspective and his deliberate effort to view events as if the revolution were not inevitable helps reveal the many complexities of this 18th-century relationship. His relentless examinations of the era’s politicking, diplomacy and warfare, with no pauses to reflect, explain or frame the issues, will prove off-putting to many readers.
For specialists only.