examines the Revolutionary War primarily from the perspective of British politicians, soldiers, citizens, and the royal court of King George III. In this enjoyable and enlightening book, American historian Stanley Weintraub looks at myopic King George and his ambition to hold the colonies at any price, discusses how antiwar opposition in Parliament gradually gained momentum, and studies the sentiments of the general population who were forced to pay heavy taxes to support the conflict, causing resentment and, in 1780, a riot. Despite such rumblings all around him, the insulated king failed to realize how much the situation in far-off America affected domestic issues in England and was shocked enough when he lost America that he considered abdicating his throne. Most British citizens did not take it nearly as hard; many, in fact, welcomed the chance to get back to business with the Americans, feeling that commerce had been interrupted long enough by an expensive and unnecessary war.
Weintraub also covers the battles on the other side of the Atlantic and offers profiles of the major players, particularly George Washington, who became a folk hero in Britain, earning the admiration of even those ardently against the American cause. The consequences of Britain's hiring of thousands of foreign mercenaries, some of which ended up deserting and settling permanently in America, are also discussed, along with the issue of why loyalists in the colonies failed to join the redcoats in significant numbers. Most importantly, in detailing the strategic and tactical mistakes made by Britain, the author highlights the various circumstances that greatly favored the rebellious colonies from the beginning, including the sheer vastness of America and the maddening logistical difficulties involved in sending soldiers, provisions, and messages across the ocean. Weintraub makes a compelling case that the mighty British Empire never really had a chance. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Did America actually win the battle for its freedom in the Revolutionary War? Or did Britain—divided internally over whether to fight the war—simply fail to summon all its might to defeat the colonists? In this brilliant and provocative book, bestselling historian Weintraub (George Washington's Christmas Farewell
, etc.) examines the possibility that the British lost the war because of protest and lack of support at home. In response to the siege of Boston in August 1775, King George accused the colonists of being traitors, but Gen. Thomas Gage urged conciliation. By 1780, the war, with its enormous casualties, had begun to take its toll at home; taxes had risen and trade had slumped, with a resulting rise in unemployment. The diversion of funds to win what seemed like an unwinnable conflict agitated both houses of Parliament as well as the working classes, who took to the streets in protests and riots. The British failure to win a war against ill-trained but determined guerrilla forces in often unpredictable circumstances and weather appears now as an eerie harbinger of modern conflicts such as the Vietnam War. Weintraub's fast-paced narrative and impeccable historical research provide a stimulating challenge to conventional histories of the Revolutionary War that focus exclusively on the heroism of American forces. Weintraub tells us the rest of the story.
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