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The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown Hardcover – October 9, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian; First Edition edition (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061139106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061139109
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The battle of Yorktown in October 1781 and the surrender of Cornwallis's army to Washington is popularly thought to have made the success of the American Revolution a done deal. True, the war officially ended two years later—but surely its conclusion was only a formality? Novelist and historian Fleming (Washington's Secret War) persuasively argues that, in fact, final victory was by no means inevitable. Indeed, even before Yorktown, the Continental Army had fallen to just 5,835 men and the country was bankrupt, while 26,000 British troops and armed Loyalists remained in North America. Ironically, the battle itself was potentially ruinous, writes Fleming: Washington could ill afford to keep his army in the field—as the British well knew. Their post-Yorktown policy was to drag out diplomatic negotiations for as long as possible until Americans tired of war agreed to reunite with the empire. It was left to Washington to avoid these perils of peace and make the republic a reality. Fleming is a narrative historian with a wide following, and his latest, while not groundbreaking in terms of scholarly research, tells an important story from an unusual perspective. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Historian Fleming has written about the American Revolution before (Liberty! 1997) and here richly narrates the delicate military, financial, and diplomatic events of 1781–83, which culminated in Britain's acknowledgment by treaty of American independence. Even after the Battle of Yorktown, accepting the loss of America was never a foregone conclusion as factions within the British government variously wished to continue the war, detach territory, or rescue something for the loyalists. Other complications were a bankrupt Congress and the fact that France was no less interested than Britain in restricting the territorial size of the U.S. Putting in motion the protagonists who dealt with these issues—Washington, financier Robert Morris, Franklin, and French and British negotiators—Fleming crafts a dynamic account that leaves readers as anxious as the actual historical figures about how things will turn out. Will the peace faction in London prevail? Will the unpaid Continental Army revolt and the U.S. fall apart? Will Franklin in Paris succumb to diplomatic sharks? With astutely drawn character sketches, Fleming fluidly engages such historical contingency. Taylor, Gilbert

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I liked this book; it is well written and is a good narrative history.
Metallurgist
His knowledge of the events following Yorktown is passed to the reader in an amazingly coherent, complete, and readable story.
Amazon Customer
What this book does better than many that come before it, is to show what was happening on both sides of the oceans.
Lehigh History Student

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on December 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Fleming's The Perils of Peace traces the two years of the American Revolutionary War after the great victory at Yorktown and how close our nation came to total financial as well as military collapse thanks to the self-interest and self-centered actions of Congress and the local state governments. Anyone reading this book would no longer able to say that America's victory at Yorktown sealed the independence of our nation when in ironic turnaround, the victory at Yorktown almost sealed the fate our nation in defeat.

I found the book to be well written and well researched. While the subject matter isn't ground-breaking, it is an area of American history that most Americans are not very familiar with. Reading this book will bound to astound many readers. Self-centered and self-seeking Congress of our period have nothing on the Continental Congress back then. The book also gives a strong case for a strong central federal government and laid seed to why the Articles of the Confederation failed and strong Constitution was needed to run our nation.

Two main founding fathers emerged from Thomas Fleming's book that saved our nation, Benjamin Franklin who kept the alliance with France going and with that, badly needed money from France that was also ironically, bankrupting that nation as well. Then we have George Washington who was still trying to win a war that everyone thought was already won. Both men struggled hard since they were the only main characters of the book who really had their eyes on the ball for the long haul. Another founding father, John Adams, suffered greatly by the author, as man who suffered mightily from his own sense of self-importance as well extreme jealousy of Franklin.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chris on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Fleming's "The Perils of Peace" is an enjoyable narrative that effectively illustrates the difficulties the United States faced between the climactic battle of Yorktown and the signing of the peace treaty. It's a fairly quick read and relatively suspenseful. I was glad to learn more about this oft-overlooked period of the Revolution.

What I most like about the book is the way Fleming keeps the reader apprised of the developments in England, France and the U.S. He provides an interesting look into the upheaval in George III's government, as well as the discontent among American peacemakers and the shockingly bad financial management by Congress. Having read books about Hamilton, Adams, Franklin and Jefferson, I wondered how much new information I'd learn, but I was pleasantly surprised.

While the subject matter is interesting, it's not so riveting that it provides 230 pages of a gripping drama. It's good, and Fleming does an effective job with it; I would recommend it to history buffs. But I wouldn't put it in the category of historical narratives that transcend history and would appeal to the average reader. For those like myself with an interest in this period, it's well worth the time and shouldn't take too long to read. All in all, a pretty solid book from Fleming.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on December 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 hardly made the independence of the United States a done deal, as Thomas Fleming amply demonstrates in this fast-paced narrative. In fact, considering the pitiful state of Washington's Army, the bankruptcy of the new government, the fecklessness of Congress, and political back-stabbing and conniving at home and abroad, it is something of a miracle that America made it through to the final signing of the peace in 1783.

Fleming casts a welcome light on these events, with ample attention to the issues, the personalities, the military and diplomatic maneuvers, and the small telling anecdotes (the last British soldiers out of New York in 1783 pettily greased the flagpole, in a vain attempt at preventing the Americans from raising Old Glory!)

The author has very decided opinions about the character and competence of everyone involved in the struggle; George Washington comes out as one Great Man, with Ben Franklin a close second. I have no quarrel with this, but fans of the Virginia Lees and Ethan Allen, among others, are likely to take exception to Fleming's characterizations (he flatly accuses Allen of "stealing" Vermont from New York!) The British politicians are given rough handling, although George III comes across as a strong ruler.

In short, "The Perils of Peace" is a partisan but worthwhile history. Although the book stops in 1783, it also provides enough background to be useful for the study of the following period, 1783 - 1789, that led up to the adoption of the U. S. Constitution.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ernie Wild on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'll give Fleming five stars for choice of subject matter and three stars for execution. This area of American history certainly needs more ink, and I have no problem with it presented in narrative form. The problem with history presented in a narrative format is how deep do I go? And how do I sustain that chosen depth through out the narrative? Fleming struggles with this problem throughout the book. It is uneven, thin in many spots, and all too often downright patronising. Plus there is a bit of the old "it was a miracle" feeling, a sin committed by too many historians and writers of this era. That having been said I commend Fleming for choosing this subject matter. The years after Yorktown and the entire era of the Articles of Confederation are little understood by the American people. It has been the domain of scholars. This book for all its flaws is a step in the right direction.
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More About the Author

"How do you write a book?" 24 year old Thomas Fleming asked bestselling writer Fulton Oursler in 1951. "Write four pages a day," Oursler said. "Every day except Sunday. Whether you feel like it or not. Inspiration consists of putting the seat of your pants on the chair at your desk." Fleming has followed this advice to good effect. His latest effort, "The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers," is his 50th published book. Twenty three of them have been novels. He is the only writer in the history of the Book of the Month Club to have main selections in fiction and in nonfiction. Many have won prizes. Recently he received the Burack Prize from Boston University for lifetime achievement. In nonfiction he has specialized in the American Revolution. He sees Intimate Lives as a perfect combination of his double talent as a novelist and historian. "Novelists focus on the imtimate side of life. This is the first time anyone has looked at the intimate side of the lives of these famous Americans, with an historian's eyes." Fleming was born in Jersey City, the son of a powerful local politician. He has had a lifetime interest in American politics. He also wrote a history of West Point which the New York Times called "the best...ever written." Military history is another strong interest. He lives in New York with his wife, Alice Fleming, who is a gifted writer of books for young readers.

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