Customer Reviews: 1775: A Good Year for Revolution
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In 1999 Kevin Phillips published The Cousins' Wars, a comparative study of the English Civil War, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. In many ways 1775: A Good Year for Revolution is a continuation of one of Phillips' primary theses in his earlier work: that the Revolution was not so much a revolt as it was a civil war, with large numbers of sympathizers on both sides in both Britain and the American colonies. Phillips' new work is also a very well organized and eminently readable examination of the causes of the Revolution and the critical first year of fighting.

The title of the book is based on the idea that many have that somehow the Declaration of Independence was the beginning point of the Revolution, that it emerged more or less fully fledged without much thought or background, and that once it emerged the conflict and the question of independence was immediately resolved. I majored in history and taught high school social studies for many years, so I didn't need to be convinced of the fallacy of this general view, but I found Phillips' highly detailed and well written explanation for why it's a fallacy highly interesting and thorough.

The book is divided into four segments: a brief Part I containing the Introduction, Part II on the buildup and causes of the Revolution, Part III on the critical year of 1775 itself, dealing with the actual military movements on both sides and the accompanying supply and economic issues, and finally Part IV "Consequences and Ramifications" summing up the aftereffects of the first battles and their implications for the remainder of the conflict. I enjoyed reading each section. Phillips is scholarly, but with a background in journalism and politics he is able to communicate more clearly and effectively than is sometimes the case. His decision to focus on four "vanguard colonies" is a good example of this. There are a number of well drawn and detailed maps, effectively named (my favorite is "Imperial Virginia") and well placed in the body of the work. Phillips provides detailed demographic, economic, and cultural data which I appreciated not just as an historian but also as a genealogist, since it allowed me a better idea of life in back country South Carolina, Tidewater Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley, among other areas. Finally, I appreciated Phillips' coverage of the role played by religion and religious differences in the buildup to the Revolution.

It is rare to find a "history book" aimed at the general public which does not sacrifice scholarly rigor, but Kevin Phillips has ably accomplished this in 1775: A Good Year For Revolution.
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on December 10, 2012
The old maxim "the best of times and the worst of times" is often quoted but the deeper meaning forgotten, especially in today's rough and tumble world of politics. We tend to be nostalgic and rekindle some kind of forgotten magic that has long passed. The old timers share war stories and say how great things used to be with our contemporary history books painting the mystical tale of successful periods in our history. There is no way these founding fathers could have imagined that we would still be around as a nation or the many changes.
As an American the year 1776 has been engrained as the year our nation embarked on this democratic experience that has sustained for over two hundred years. The battles, Paul Revere's ride, Jefferson penning he Declaration of Independence and the tea party. Were these pinnacle events that occurred in 1776 or was the mark further back?
Author Kevin Phillips has been on the political scene for over a half century and written extensively about some of the major political realignments. Like most in the field he had grown disillusioned with the politics. In his new book, 1775: A Good Year for Revolution he steps back to our nation's early days about the emerging republican (small-r) majority or plurality.
Phillips makes a convincing case that 1776 is not the most important year to remember in our history but it was actually 1775 when major events moved in favor of the revolutionaries. He documents and tells in vivid detail events and observations that pointed to his case. Here are some of the points I found interesting in the book 1775.
Out of the colonies only a few: Connecticut, South Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts made up the vanguard of the Revolution, contributing two thirds or even three quarters of its momentum and leadership. These four has most of the wealth and population and held old charters so they had a history behind them.
Communications was a problem and the British did not get word of some of the changes in the colonies. Then the British had bad maps of the coast line or really understand the geography.
Phillips notes the large make up of slaves and indentured servants in the new territories. As the diversity of the nationals ideals moved away from the political and constitutional class with Britain and a push for economic self-determination.
One poignant issue then that we face today is money. At first the lack of a common currency created problems then after independence inflation and a pumping up with more money printed from $5 million by the end of 1775 to $15 million by mid-1776.
Overall what I enjoyed about the book is that it reframes some our basic assumptions into a realistic portrait that no matter how much we glamorize the early days, they had a lot more problems that we had today. If the successes of 1775 did not happen or if which was possible not happen we either would be speaking with a British accent or have taken shape into a mini-European model of small states.
This book is an eye opening look into one perspective of the history of the United States. It is a detailed history lesson that makes will make you appreciate 1775. I learned a lot of new facts and it was nice to venture back to those days that are often taken for granted. Everyone needs a good history lesson now and then.
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on November 8, 2013
This book was thoroughly and meticulously researched and the author is incredibly careful to credit the many different sources and historians upon whom he has relied. He discussed many points with which I was not familiar and I have read a number of other books about the American Revolution. However, thorough research should be accompanied by a writing style that is readable and does not bog the reader down in minutia and too much detail. I struggled reading this book as the author went on and on in an effort to either make his point or to show off the thoroughness of his research. I feel that if an editor had been able to convince the author to shorten some of the narrative, the same points could have been made in fewer pages and in a more interesting manner. You will not feel short-changed with the amount of data that is presented - if you can make your way all the way to the end.
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on March 27, 2013
The revolution was about a lot more than taxation without representation. Rather, the British were systematically trying to keep the American colonies down by limiting currency to hold down the economy, making trade with any country other than Britain illegal, closing access to prime fisheries, and prohibiting the expansion of industries like iron and steel making. In doing this, they managed to anger a vast number of colonists from all regions. When the colonists petitioned for reconsideration, they tightened the screws further. 1776 was the culmination of over a decade of this misguided policy. A bit slow going in places, but worthwhile!
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on June 11, 2015
This review is for the audio book version.

Reading the author’s personal introduction is enough to make you want to forget about reading this book. He goes on and on about all of the previous books that he has written. If not for me having the audio book and being out of the house when I started listening I wouldn’t have continued.

But then the book reads halfway like a laundry list (the minor skirmishes that took place outside of Massachusetts in 1775 and then all of the places where colonists from one colony went and settled) and halfway like a college history research paper- the author is constantly saying that such and such will be covered in a later chapter or something already covered will be returned to.

It’s the research paper part where the book goes really off course. The author first tries to explain how ethnicities and preferred churches influenced what side you ended up on. The author leaves us with the idea that most Palatine German colonists remained loyalist because of their oaths (or their parents/grandparents’ oath) to George I or II. My maternal grandmother’s ancestry is a good 90% Rhenish/Swiss/Austrian going back at least as far as the early 16th century. The earliest that I have found that any of them moved to America is the 1730s (the time of the supposed oath-taking). I have not found a single one of these ancestors that were loyalist, and several were in the American Army or various state militias. And don’t forget that the personal honor guard that escorted Washington home to Mount Vernon after he resigned his commission was Palantine.

Then the author points out that the American colonies were seen as a religious movement. The author cites several long-dead historians to prove this. This is true, and most modern historians and academicians won’t admit it. But, then this author claims that Americans fought the Revolution by concluding that church and state had been too interwoven.

This a baldface lie. Go to that Avalon archive that Harvard(?) has on the net and read each of the 13 original state’s first post-British constitution. Most, if not all, recognize God and several require state office-holders to acknowledge the Deity of Jesus Christ. And several had taxpayer-supported church denominations.

For the record I have studied American history on my own for over 35 years (started around age 10), and my biology degree comes with 40 credit hours in history.
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This book, by political commentator Kevin Phillips, is a lengthy look at the months leading up to the Declaration of Independence. As the author himself admits, the book largely covers the months from mid-1774 to mid-1776. As such, the title is a bit misleading, but selecting 1775 as the center of the era does allow for a short and pithy title. The book itself is much like a encyclopedia of subject on the situation in late colonial America, covering everything from religion, economics and ethnicity to geography and effects of various American and British policies.

Overall, I found this to be a good book. It covers a lot of very interesting territory, and is likely to have something you did not know about the Revolution. At the same time, though, I must admit that the wide reach of the book does mean that it covers a lot of subjects that are well known and as such most readers will find it far too long and very uninteresting in parts. It's a good book, but I would suggest skimming it for the good in it, rather than slogging through each and every one of its many pages.
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on February 23, 2013
I have read many books on the Revoluntionary Way and this book gave me many new facts and information concerning the state of both the colonies and England leading up to the War. This information was fascinating. I especially liked the in depth research and information concerning the religious implications in the several states. It contained a lot of facts concerning the battle of public opinion in England. I had never thought of that. There were comparisons with our Vietnam. I would recommend this book to all those interested in the formation of our nation.
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on September 20, 2014
Living much of my life in suburban Boston, it was no surprise that 1775 was arguably a more significant year in America's struggle for independence than 1776. Our town staged a large bicentennial celebration in 1975. Characteristic of Kevin Phillips previous works he does not simply make a point, he surrounds it with ample documentation.
In my retirement, I have been an instructor at the local senior college in Maine and have offered courses in the pre-Revolutionary period in colonial Boston. I have argued that the period 1760-1776 was one of the most dynamic and transformative in our history. I thought I understood nearly all the reasons for our separation from England. Phillips covers each colony, and Canada, to explain reasons of which I was unaware. The book became a "page turner" because each new chapter brought a perspective, often regional, that I had not appreciated before.
One has to be impressed by the great variety of positions on separation among the different colonies, the different social classes and religious denominations, the various and sometimes contradictory economic interests. There are marked differences between the colonies and often differences within one colony.
Phillips brings an analysis of the countervailing forces within England that is missing in many books by American historians. While the book focuses on 1775 his perspective on England explains why separation was almost inevitable. America was simply too large, too far away and too expensive for a country already strapped with the debt from the Seven Years War to manage.
Another valuable chapter is the attitude and support provided by virtually all the important European powers.
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on December 15, 2015
Excellent! Most Americans have a Jeffrey Spiccoli understanding of our War of Independence. "So we thought it was bogus that there was a tax on tea, so we said 'woah, no more, dude!'" This is a well researched and well written book on the period before July 4, 1776. Details of the battles (most not covered in schools), insights into the thinking of the British, how many other countries helped the Patriots, reasons why the same countries refused to help the British.

Public education has failed to look at the many events that led to the revolt. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Scottish Revolt of 1745, the Hanoverian Kings of England, each had a hand that helped lead to 1776. We all know of Sam Adams, John Hancock and George Washington, but there were hundreds of other leaders that most of us do not know. This book touched on these leaders.

Furthermore, why did we not include Canada, Bermuda, Jamaica or other Western Hemisphere colonies in our revolt? We tried to attack Canada, but General Schuyler had mastered the fine art of "Gradual degradation" of the enemy that failed miserably.

An excellent book!
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on August 21, 2014
The author is an outstanding researcher and writer. His premise of 1775 being the most important time of our revolutionary history is spot-on. Phillips gets into subjects that the armchair historian most likely never knew. The only problem that I can see within the entire book is to many words. Not that he rambles but just to many words in explaining the subjects in each chapter. It is a good read on the beach; but unless your there for two weeks, you'll never finish it. It's a long book with a lot of information.
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