Top positive review
A political history, not narrative...
9 August 2011
I've only ever read one other title from the 'Oxford History of the United States' series, and that was James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, which, by the way, is a masterpiece. This book is not in that league, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.
I have to confess, I've never really known too much about the American Revolution. I never bought in to a lot of the myths surrounding these years - and boy, are there a lot of myths for something that only happened less than 300 years ago! This book really opened my eyes to how the Revolution was not a sudden event, a sudden momentous break, that it had been percolating and bubbling away for over ten years before 1776, exacerbated by a lack of faith in the doings of the British Parliament, a Parliament that repeatedly overstepped its bounds in relation to the colonies and cared little for the needs or desires of the people living in them.
And even after the war was over, the survival of the United States was not a done deal. There were a great deal of disenchantment with the Continental Congress; many felt that it had sacrificed the ideals that the people were originally fighting for. There was also a great amount of disagreement over what shape and form the future government should take - should there be a powerful central government, or should be invested in the states? This is an issue where perhaps the Founding Fathers failed, as still it rumbles on, nearly 250 years and one brutal civil war later.
This book is not perhaps your usual narrative history; it focuses far more on politics and political theory than people and events. I found it hard-going in places, and there were times when I wished for a bit more about certain times or places. Benedict Arnold's defection, for example, was mentioned only in passing, and I wanted to know more. But for a political discourse on the Revolution, I suspect it has few rivals.