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Iron Tears: America's Battle for Freedom, Britain's Quagmire: 1775-1783 Hardcover – January 18, 2005

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Iron Tears 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (January 18, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743226879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743226875
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #702,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rocco Dormarunno on July 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I don't know what the British press might be saying about "Iron Tears" but I doubt it could be negative. Professor Weintraub has taken a look at the American Revolution and presented us with the flip-side to the coin, that is, the plight of the Britons--rich and poor--who were dependent on trade with the colonies. And Professor Weintraub approaches the suffering and frustration of these people in a sensitive and, yet, logical way.

The only "bad guy" emerging out of all this is George III who is depicted as particularly obsessed with showing the colonies who's the boss. (By the way, the colonists are not portrayed as the little innocent angels our [U.S.] history books have claimed they were. They were, in some cases, particularly criminal and not exempt from violence. Weintraub is also correct in depicting the ingratitude of some colonists toward the Redcoats who protected them during the French-Indian war. Still that does not absolve the British from breaking into the homes of innocent people, eating all their food, taking whatever tools, blankets, etc., they wanted, and, in some cases, sexually abusing the women.)

On the downside, Weintraub tends to linger too long on the colonies' objection to the "taxation without representation" issue. But, as one reads further into the book, Weintraub s-l-o-w-l-y brings in the other elements of British oppression which are listed in Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, and which led to the conflicts at Lexington and Concord. All the while, an outraged Parliament and British public could only watch impotently.
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Format: Hardcover
I voraciously read books on the American Revolution and that wonderful, rich pantheon of personalities and talent that the United States was so fortunate in having themcoming together at the same time -- Washington, Jefferson, Adams, the much underestimated and noble Mason, Franklin, Hamilton and the rest. I thought that I knew the field pretty well. This book is a big surprise and a welcome one. As a Brit (who has lived in the US for almost forty years), I knew very little of just how actively so many of the real good guys in Britain opposed the war; it reminded me in many ways of the opposition to the Vietnam War. The Amervcian Revolution is not part of mainstream British learning and very much something to forget or gloss over (as, I regret, the McCarthy era has become in the US). This really is a first-rate book, well-written and convincing. It basically shows that the whole mess was George III's obsessive determination to punish the revolting, ungrateful and unworthy colonial upstarts -- it's a good explanation of why monarchies should be declared a historical dead end. The book is well worth reading just for the way it brings alive the professionals like Clinton, the Howe brothers, and Burgoyne who tend to be faceless and cardboard characters in most world that look at the Revolution entirely from the US perspective. It has a real villain -- Lord Germain -- among the most dangerous of Britain's many dangerous upper-class twits. It adds useful and vivid details about Franklin, who is better known for his work in the French court than for his equally skilled politicing and propogandering in London. It's a shrewd book. I think it is also indispensable for anyone interested in the history of the Revolution. (And, yes, this Brit agrees that the right guys won.
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Format: Hardcover
Although I still believe the British perspective on the US War of Independence is a fascinating and important subject of which most Americans are totally ignorant, I had the hardest time motivating myself to finish this book.

I'm not sure what it was, but the author seemed to drift from topic to topic, person to person, without establishing a good story line or providing sufficient background information. It is also very annoying that the author frequently talks about British political cartoons, without actually showing them.

There definitely are moments that were eye-openers for me, such the degree of resistance to starting the war, Howe's timidity when it came to using all out force,and the doubt from the very beginning that Great Britain could successfully subdue the rebels. Also, I was surprised by the degree of corruption in the British partliament and the relatively unrestrained, and free-wheeling press, not unlike today's. The chapter "Moderately Feeding the War" is interesting because it describes how the British rulers and people consciously held back in their support for the war, seemingly implying that they didn't want to waste scarce resources on a lost cause. And last, I liked the title "Iron Tears" taken from an interesting outspoken British critic of the war from the start, Edmund Burke, who, like many British commoners, greatly admired the colonial rebels, yet believed with sadness that losing the colonies would be inevitable--the "Iron Tears" refers to cannon and musket shot.

Perhaps, the book is meant for those who already know a bit about British history, and then I could imagine it being more interesting. But too many times Weintraub goes off into details of British parliamentary proceedings, which, frankly, loses my attention.
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