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A Concise History

by Robert J. Allison

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-19-531295-9
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

“The history of our Revolution will be one continued lie from one end to the other,” prophesied John Adams. Allison (History/Suffolk Univ.; Revolutionary Sites of Greater Boston, 2005, etc.) aims to correct a few of those mistruths.

In the space of little more than 100 pages, the author covers a tremendous amount of ground, including the complex precipitating causes of the struggle for American independence. He locates one in the much-hated Proclamation of 1763, which forbade English colonists in North America from settling across the Appalachians, and which stirred up resentments even as colonists disobeyed it. Wrote Virginia’s governor to the British secretary of state, the law was “insufficient to restrain the Americans, and that they will do and will remove as their avidity and restlessness incite them.” Allison notes that American revolutionaries did indeed object, vocally and violently, to the notion that they should be taxed without parliamentary representation. However, correcting the popular record, he adds that the American colonists’ tax burdens were comparatively light, and those colonists were generally more prosperous than Britons back home. Such corrections are timely in an era of neo–Tea Party fundamentalism, which holds the founding fathers blameless and the British fonts of evil. Allison carefully addresses the checkered American military record during the Revolutionary War. The eventual victory owes more to France than many would care to acknowledge, but also to the dedication of the volunteers who fought at the first engagements, such as Bunker Hill, which the author vividly describes, and about which he concludes, “A defeat for the Americans, Bunker Hill had nevertheless proven they could fight.” Even though the book is brief, the author finds room to discuss the war in the South, which historians have been giving renewed attention to lately. He also fits in the better-known figures, such as Molly Pitcher, while acknowledging the contributions of countless unsung fighters. A helpful timeline opens the book.

A useful introduction to a complicated series of historical events.