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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Revolution Revisited
This is a book that really needs to be read in the United States. Unfortunately, I suspect it won't be. (I notice that it is already out-of-print in America.) The information in it wouldn't be particularly shocking to most academics, but the book would be an eye-opener for the general public. Personally, I enjoy Mr. Bicheno's wit and sarcasm. However, his method may not...
Published on 6 Oct 2003 by Bruce Loveitt

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rebels and Redcoats
Despite what it says on the cover this is not a general history of the American Revolution, it is a military history of the American Revolution. If you try reading this book without any previous knowledge of the War of Independence you will be mightily confused.

Some years ago I remember watching the Richard Holmes documentary series which accompanied this book...
Published 23 months ago by Neil Lennon


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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Revolution Revisited, 6 Oct 2003
By 
Bruce Loveitt (Ogdensburg, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This is a book that really needs to be read in the United States. Unfortunately, I suspect it won't be. (I notice that it is already out-of-print in America.) The information in it wouldn't be particularly shocking to most academics, but the book would be an eye-opener for the general public. Personally, I enjoy Mr. Bicheno's wit and sarcasm. However, his method may not be the best way to gain "the hearts and minds" of the unconverted. For example, here is Mr. Bicheno on John Paul Jones: "His later career included service in the navy of the freedom-loving Catherine the Great of Russia, finally fleeing St. Petersburg to evade an allegedly fabricated accusation of rape. What may have been his remains were....deposit(ed) in a magnificent crypt at the Annapolis Naval Academy. Not many other career criminals have been similarly honoured." Or here is the author on Thomas Jefferson: "...always inhabiting a world of soaring rhetoric that impinged upon reality only in places..." Again, I find this sort of thing amusing - but I was already one of the converted. Mr. Bicheno would have done better to present the facts in a cool manner, but he seems to enjoy bull-baiting. In any case, he is usually right on-the-mark. There was plenty of bumbling and humbug on both sides, trading with the enemy, etc. This was one of the least necessary revolutions in history, when you look at the freedom and rights the colonists possessed. And the hypocrisy of people pontificating about human rights, when said people were busy oppressing blacks and exterminating Native Americans, is obvious. Mr. Bicheno does occasionally get carried away with his rhetoric: at one point he states that Benjamin Franklin, in 1777-1778, intentionally prolonged the conflict so he could continue to benefit from his profiteering. Even I found that a shade too cynical. On the other side of the coin, the author states that one reason Benedict Arnold switched sides was because he was disgusted by the rebels forming an alliance with the Roman-Catholic French. It seems that Mr. Bicheno can himself be a trifle starry-eyed. Arnold was disgusted...with what he felt was a lack of recognition of his (admittedly substantial) services, and with people of inferior abilities leap-frogging over him via political string-pulling. Of course, as with most traitors, money also had a little something to do with his change of heart.....Still, Mr. Bicheno is mostly correct concerning motivations and actions. As he rightly points out, this was really the first American Civil War. There were just as many Loyalists as Rebels, and a large percentage of the people were sitting on the fence, waiting to see which side would come out on top. The book is full of wonderful colour plates and there are numerous, excellent maps (35, to be precise). One caveat concerning the book is that it is not intended to be the starting-point for someone reading about the Revolution. It presupposes that you have some knowledge of the battles and the political background. Indeed, considering the fact that the book is only 260 pages long and so many battles (minor as well as major) and troop movements are mentioned, the novice would wind up being very confused by the military aspects of the book. But, for the person who wants to build on their existing knowledge of the military and, especially, the political developments, this is a good, solid addition to the genre.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ninja History, 26 Aug 2010
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War (Paperback)
This is a very entertaining and thought-provoking history of the American War of Independence. It has a wide coverage and a strong point-of-view to put over. However, Bicheno is a contrarian enragé who enjoys, I suspect, the opportunity to gore oxen and especially sacred cows. Few of the American participants escape without several blows from his doughty cudgel, and while he is just as blunt with the British they have been fair game for generations. Sam Adams is characterised as the Abu Nidal of the Revolution in a witty move that is sure to annoy many and hurt some. For those of us not prepared to take anything on trust Bicheno's view encourages one to reconsider one's present understanding. However, for many Americans the opinions are going to be hard to swallow and the method of delivery deeply antagonistic. I have no horse in this race but it made me go back and re-read, and more importantly, re-think the way I see the war. For that alone I recommend it.

The American war was no stranger to spin, the English Civil war being a useful primer for both sides, and some of the hard opinions of individuals expressed by Bicheno are based on one version of a story that may have two sides. I noted in passing that Simon Girty is tarred with the torture of Colonel Crawford (which one eye witness stated he argued against)and Lord Dunmore with selling his ex-slave unit back into slavery after the war (which is also subject to counter claims). At this remove of time and distance we cannot know, but the the versions used clearly indicate a greater moral turpitude than the versions not used.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About time somebody shot a few sacred cows, 24 Feb 2011
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S. Harker "steve" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War (Paperback)
I missed the BBC TV series but, having read this author's book The Razor's Edge about the Falklands War, I wasn't going to miss out on this, and it doesn't disappoint. Written in an equally lively and slighlty irreverent style it gives a much more balanced (if you're British) view of the American war of Independence. A fair few American sacred cows get slaughtered along the way as the myths of the American revolution get matched up against historical fact and are mostly found wanting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rebels and Redcoats, 28 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War (Paperback)
Despite what it says on the cover this is not a general history of the American Revolution, it is a military history of the American Revolution. If you try reading this book without any previous knowledge of the War of Independence you will be mightily confused.

Some years ago I remember watching the Richard Holmes documentary series which accompanied this book and it was a lot clearer in explaining the causes and effects of the war. The book it seems has instead been used to make one specific arguement - that the story many Americans are told about the founding fathers is a myth.

Rebels and Redcoats puts forward several very convincing arguements with plenty of facts to back them up that show that to this day there is an ongoing propoganda exercise to portray the rebels in the War of Independence as being morally righteous paragons of virtue. It does an excellent job of discussing the real history and the reasons it has been turned into a one sided myth.

However what Rebels and Redcoats does not do is clearly explain the history of the Revolutionary War, its causes, the people involved, how the war developed and the consequences of the conflict. There are some excellent maps and discussions of the battles but you need to already know the history of the war before you can make sense of the arguements in this book. As a result, although I agree with the points made by the author, I can only give the book three stars.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the birth of Hollywood history, 28 July 2008
By 
B. weenen - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War (Paperback)
firstly I would recommend everyone visit the review site on Amazon.com It would appear that this book has got up a few noses among our American friends. I'm guessing that when dearly held beliefs are in anyway challenged a strongly negative reaction is provoked. secondly, this book goes right to the heart of the American national psyche and why they are currently so unpopular with the rest of the World. Naturally all Countries histories are to some extent built apon myth. America would do well to recognise this. Just as, for example, Britain has had to do. Only then will they see themselves for what they really are, just as grubby and unprincipled as the rest of us, not some Hollywood fantasy hero. This exellent book is a good start and I recommend it to everyone.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, an English view of the American war of Independence, 26 Aug 2003
By 
G H Thorne Esq (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Many books have been written about the American War of Independence, but few have been written as a general history but from a British stand-point. There have been a few over recent years, but Mackesy's masterful "The War for America" remains the standard work on the British strategy during the war, the problems of logistics and, even more particularly, the political meddling.
In Hugh Bicheno's book, these problems are included, but, of course, it remains difficult to understand why the War was lost when there are, in fact, so few full-scale defeats for British forces on the battlefields. Mr Bicheno goes a long way to explain his view that the war was part of a much greater conflict against France and its allies (in this case Spain and the Netherlands), whilst the war in America was, to a great extent, a civil war, with considerable numbers of Americans fighting for the Crown.
He shows, as a result, that many of the conceptions about the war, on both sides of the Atlantic, are mistaken, and have been continuing for over 200 years.
The battle desciptions are excellent,with very fine maps and, again, as in Mr Bicheno's previous books, great care appears to have been taken in placing vast amounts of information, which might otherwise have halted the narrative, in appendices.
As a companion study to the recent TV series, it works very well, and, of course, the interesting point will be the reaction in America to a book which will, perhaps, make them question long-held beliefs. As far as the Old World is concerned, the book is a very welcome study on a conflict which retains aq fascination after 220 years.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Fun, 14 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War (Paperback)
At times the author over eggs the pudding, but blimey he really turns the perceived reasons and the course of this war on its head. No sacred cows are left with their dignity intact. It is highly provocative stuff and it goes to prove that there is always more than one way to view history.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book, 13 July 2003
By 
Darren Sharrocks "Darren" (Manchester , UK) - See all my reviews
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What can I say, this books is a must for everyone who wants to learn about the truth of the american revolution. It is about time an honest account has been written. I often complained that the majority of books and accounts were so american bias it was difficult to construct and argument and one felt obliged to accept the american viewpoint, that the british were wrong. They were not and this books sheds some light on why the conflict took place. For example it sheds light on the so called massacre at lexington, and the little know fact that the rebels has cannons big enough there to lay siege to boston. Once this account has seen the light of day, it changes the context of the battle and the ensuing war. Also intriging is the proposition that "patriots" planned this war years before and it make sense in regards to the weapons available to the colonists. Basically they got them from the french.
Read the book with an open mind, read it will a critical mind. There is some things I disagree with like the number of blacks in both armies and maybe a little british in its bias, or is this way thinking due to my brainwashing of the american standard viewpoint on this conflict.
Conclusion: Great read, well research, and it is about time something like this came to the fore.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars overly convoluted, 20 May 2006
This review is from: Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War (Paperback)
I was extremely disappointed. Having read Holmes' introduction and surmised that there would be ample explanation of the political and social rationale of the various command decisions,this was not to be. Instead we have an exhaustive account of military moves without sufficient context to allow an appreciation of just why these were carried out. In the plethora of detail you can easily get lost. One of the supposed advantages of this book over others is the detailed maps. I agree that these are absolutly essential to an appreciation of the tactical analysis. However the maps are too small (at least in paperback), references in the text guide you to a map and the initial moves are not shown or are on a larger and earlier map. All in all a confusing read which I gave up on, something that only happens once in 500. I would recommend "A Few Bloody Noses" by Robert Hardy as a better read.
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17 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars UNNECESSARY ADDITION TO AN OVERCROWDED SUBJECT, 1 Sep 2003
By 
J. C. Bailey (East Sussex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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“Rebels and Redcoats” is the companion book to an Anglo-American tele-documentary series of the same name, and as such you’d probably expect it to be a hack-written and light-weight introduction to the Revolutionary War for beginners. And you’d be wrong on nearly all counts. The one thing this book is not short of is heavyweight analysis. Former intelligence man Hugh Bicheno has done a research job that is thoroughly business-like in every sense of the word. The book is packed with facts and but shies away from plain vanilla narrative in favour of analysis – in other words he is more interested in asking why than what or when. On top of that he writes with bristling conviction and a sharply ironic turn of phrase. And the resulting book could so easily have been a triumph.
Unfortunately, the one thing this book could have done with was a once-over from a professional hack writer before publication. Because what fatally lets it down is ineffective arrangement of the material.
Firstly, the author does not seem to have known what to put in and leave out. At one moment I would find myself lost in a key sentence so dense with facts that I needed to re-read it several times to work out what was being said. At another moment, a key fact that would have helped me follow his argument seemed to be missing (and it would sometimes crop up later in a chatty aside along the lines of “what I haven’t said yet is that…..”). The use of footnotes (a serious omission in any work with scholarly pretensions) would have enabled the author to present all his facts without cluttering up the main thread of his arguments and made his sources easier to investigate.
Secondly, while it's good to hear a pro-British view on the Revolution, the author comes across as excessively negative towards the key American players. An aside of my own is necessary here: Most people accept that the facts of American War of Independence are shrouded in a deliberate and elaborate process of myth-making that the emerging Nation engaged in (mostly during the 1800’s) to cement its sense of identity. History is always re-written by the victors in any revolution, and the key misunderstandings that any honest history of the Revolution has to account for are these:
(1) That the War was between America and Britain. In fact as Bicheno stresses, the conflict was principally a civil war between a “silent majority” of Loyalist Americans (supported by a weak British government that was hamstrung by political pressures at home) and a small but manipulative terrorist faction (encouraged, financed, and eventually handed victory by an absolutist French regime whose values were a million miles from the American ideals of democracy and economic freedom).
(2) That the Americans were clever and noble, and the British foolish and cruel. In fact, as Bicheno observes, it was a fundamentally English sense of fairness and liberty that infused the eventual Constitution, and the main military error made by the British was to be to soft for too long in the hope of an eventual reconciliation. And far from being noble, the members of the clique that included Adams, Washington, Franklin, Hancock and so on were for the most part vain and ambitious tyrants, racked by internal competition, ruthless property speculators, guilty of ruthless exploitation of Black slaves and murderous ethnic cleansing at the expense of Native Americans.
In this regard, Bicheno’s history is accurate. But this much is commonplace, and the key focus for any historian of the conflict is to chart how the complex motivational tensions among that initial band of revolutionaries were eventually translated into the flawed but nonetheless noble and so-far (in spite of all the stumbles) triumphant socio-economic experiment that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights truly and proudly were. And in this endeavour, the myths have a significant value – they are the language through which any nation communicates its identity and its values vertically down the generations and horizontally across the world. In fact, provided you keep a sober version of the factual events in mind, what the myths say is sometimes more valuable than the facts as a key to understanding.
Unfortunately, the author of the present book seems to have fallen into the trap of believing that the majority of people still believe the myths. He thus goes out of his way to prove, chapter by chapter, just how blundering or corrupt men like Washington and Franklin really were, and time after time to make excuses for the British, and he does so with the kind of grammatical swagger that makes you think he is proud to be pointing these things out for the first time. Worst of all, I do not think he is sufficiently careful to avoid portraying these foibles (and the 19th century myths with which they have been obscured) as symptomatic of some malaise that permeates the whole American dream.
The result is a book in which the author’s strong geo-political grasp provides many valuable nuggets of insight, often through well judged comparisons with parallel conflicts in the modern world, but which often leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. And sadly, the kind of balanced and easily readable introduction to the subject you would expect an opportunistic TV tie-in to be, it certainly is not. In fact I do not think this book itself is sure what it is trying to be, and that itself is more than enough of a reason to give it a miss. With the bookshelves on this topic as overcrowded with splendid writing as they clearly are, any new book has to be born of great depths of conviction and learning to justify a place. The TV series is worth watching, but many books cover the same ground better, (e.g. Robert Harvey's “A Few Bloody Noses").
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Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War
Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War by Hugh Bicheno (Paperback - 12 Mar 2010)
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