The American Revolution, writes English scholar Robert Harvey, was a defining event in modern world history, creating "the mightiest nation in human experience." Yet, he adds, in his country the revolution is ignored, while on the American side of the Atlantic it's "clouded by a fog of myth" that prevents understanding. Harvey seeks to illuminate the realities of the conflict. One, as he writes, is the war's strange similarity to Vietnam, not just in the role of guerrilla and militia versus conventional forces, but also in the antiwar strife it produced at home. Another of Harvey's myth-bursting themes is his insistence, contrary to many American textbooks, that the British commanders were not uniformly incompetent, American commanders not uniformly heroic; he cites many examples to show that neither side had a monopoly on either bravery or incompetence. Still another is his argument that the constitutional outcome of the revolution was in many ways a betrayal of the very principles for which the revolution was fought--a charge sure to excite controversy. Harvey's approach is balanced, his writing engaging, and students of the period will learn much from him. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Journalist and former Minister of Parliament Harvey (Liberators: Latin America's Struggle for Independence) projects a British bias but strives for balance while arguing that the Revolutionary War was more complicated than is typically understood. Specifically, Harvey aims to dispel what he terms myths, both large and small, that have persisted about the Revolution, from the idea that the war was motivated mainly by America's "love of liberty" to the notion that Washington's crossing of the Delaware had military significance. Looking at the debates that raged on all fronts between England and the colonies, within the colonies and within England itself Harvey details the complicated web of interests that determined the war's course. Many in Britain thought the colonies were "of little importance and certainly not worth the waste of young men's lives or large amounts of money," and the British army fought a devastating enemy that could wage "a continual guerilla war of attrition." He examines various important battles, as well as blunders and unconscionable acts on both sides. Ultimately, Harvey proposes that the Americans were more concerned about the British blocking their westward expansion than about taxation without representation. Attributions that accompany lengthy quotes will satisfy the general public as to sources, but scholars will find the omission of footnotes frustrating. Still, his thoughtful arguments explore the complexities of both American and British points of view, and offer American readers a new perspective on the crucial conflict. 37 illustrations and 9 maps.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.