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Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World Hardcover – February 15, 2011
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"A smart, deeply researched and elegantly written history." —New York Times Book Review
"Spirited and engaging…[Jasanoff] has turned her remarkable historical talents to the experiences of the tens of thousands of loyalists who felt compelled to leave the North American colonies that became the United States…One of the strengths of her deeply researched book is the extent to which she was able to recover the stories of some of these loyalist refugees." —Gordon S. Wood, The New York Review of Books
"A masterful account of the dispersal of the loyalists…Jasanoff’s notable achievement is to engage the reader’s interest, and sympathies, in the travails of the Revolution’s losers. It will be thoroughly rewarding, even for the reader already familiar with the fates of the winners." —The Boston Globe
"Ambitious, empathetic and sometimes lyrical...Liberty's Exiles just claims to be the 'first global history of the loyalist diaspora'...Jasanoff skillfully threads the stories of individual loyalists through her narrative as she beautifully describes, one by one, the often inhospitable places they went." —The Washington Post
"[There are] many revelations in this very well-researched and fluently written book…Jasanoff has written [the loyalists] a fitting tribute." —Andrew Roberts, The Daily Beast
"Engagingly written. . .with a genuine breadth of geographical vision, Jasanoff deftly sketches the challenges loyalists encountered." — Claremont Review of Books
"A fascinating, important and beautifully written investigation that ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks America's founding was an unambiguous instance of liberty and justice throwing off the shackles of tyranny and oppression." —The Seattle Times
"A relatively neglected subject, now handsomely addressed by Maya Jasanoff. [Her] ability to blend structural analysis with engrossing accounts of personal experience makes Liberty’s Exiles a highly readable book as well as an informative one." —The Wall Street Journal
"Jasanoff's book is history at its best." —Richmond-Times Dispatch
"You have GOT to buy this book." —DennisMansfield.com
"[A] vivid, superbly researched, and highly intelligent book...employ[ed] with terrific panache." —Linda Colley, The Guardian (UK)
"Brilliant, seminal work." —Dallas Morning News
"Smart and gracefully written...Liberty's Exiles tells a complex and original story of the loyalists. It is a history worth knowing." —The Wilson Quarterly
"Jasanoff moves artfully from larger global issues to individual stories of people who documented the turmoil...Splendidly researched, sensibly argued and compassionately told." —Austin American Statesman
"Losers seldom get to write the history, but the American loyalists have at last got their historian with Maya Jasanoff. This is not just the story of their poignant and often tragic fate during the war for independence, but also the story of the loyalist diaspora, the experience of 60,000 men and women, black and white, as they spread into Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, and India. No one has told this story before, and Jasanoff tells it with uncommon style and grace." —Joseph J. Ellis
"The days are long gone when American history was written not only by the victors but also about them. Yet we have had to wait too long for a history of the Loyalists who fought against the American Revolution, and lost. Maya Jasanoff has done more than merely rescue them from the condescension of posterity. She has made them live on the page. I can think of few books published in the past thirty years that shed more brilliant and revelatory light on the events of the revolutionary era than Liberty’s Exiles. It is more than just a work of first-class scholarship on a par with Linda Colley’s Britons. It is a deeply moving masterpiece that fulfils the historian’s most challenging ambition: to revivify past experience." —Niall Ferguson
"Liberty's Exiles is a book which in scope and originality, global reach and research, intellectual curiosity and sheer provocative panache-- upturning in its wake whole applecarts of unchallenged assumptions-- can sustain comparison with Linda Colley or the young Simon Schama. The truth is that Maya Jasanoff is not just a very good writer, an indefatigable researcher and a fine historian, she is also a bit of a genius." —William Dalrymple
"Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles places the loyalist experience and the aftermath of the American Revolution in an entirely new light. Alongside the Spirit of 1776, Jasanoff gives us the Spirit of 1783, dedicated to remaking the mighty British Empire, and then offers a stunning reinterpretation of the Loyalists' complicated role in that remaking. Her meticulously researched and superbly written account is historical revision at its finest, and it affirms her place as one of the very finest historians of the rising generation." —Sean Wilentz
"A masterful account of the struggles, heartbreak, and determination that characterized specific Loyalist families and individuals. . . [A] superb study of a little known episode in American and British history." —PW (starred)
“Jasanoff moves artfully from larger global issues to individual stories documenting the turmoil…Splendidly researched, sensibly argued, and compassionately told." —Kirkus (starred)
“[E]xhaustively researched and very well written. . . . [Jasonoff} skillfully weav[es] into her work the stories of individual loyalists, British officials, and others. She is as good at close-in, detailed narrative as she is at detached, balanced analysis of the forces at work. Liberty's Exiles—which provides, she notes, ‘the first global history of the loyalist diaspora’—belongs on the short shelf of indispensable books about the American Revolution's losers.” —Commonweal
Top Customer Reviews
Maya Jasanoff begins by describing the plight of the Loyalists during the Revolution. US literature covers the treatment of settlers, POWs and patriots at the hands of the British, but this was my first encounter with what would be considered today as war crimes committed by the US patriots. Jasanoff also writes how families were passionately divided, including the famous rift in the Benjamin Franklin family. Through these descriptions, you see the trauma of the Loyalists before their exodus ordeal even began.
Jasanoff presents England's surrender as a strategic retreat. England had more lucrative and enticing ventures than the American colonies (India, Australia and the Caribbean to name a few). England expected that when independent, the American colonies would eventually have to fight France rather than continue its military alliance against England. England expected, in the long run, the colonies would see the advantages of re-uniting with the growing Empire with which they shared a culture and language. Caught in this withdrawl were those who remained loyal to Britain.
This book, while heavily reliant on dry crusty records, is full of compelling human interest stories. The Loyalists were shown to be from all walks of life and represented in all social groups. For many Loyalists, there was no choice, they had to emigrate. Their future in the US was bleak. The threat of violence was everywhere. Many had their property confiscated.
The author tells the story through the exiles themselves such as Elizabeth Johnson (exiled back to Britain, to Jamaica and finally Nova Scotia); David George (a slave who joined the British Army for the promise of service for freedom); the Beverly Robinson Family (whose connections helped them obtain positions in the growing British Empire); the colorful saga of William Bowles (who attempted to create a British-Cherokee state); Thomas Brown (tortured by the Patriots and went to British Florida only to be exiled again as Britain ceded it to Spain); Joseph and Elizabeth Brandt (who led the Mohawk tribes to Canada); and John Clarkson, (the abolitionist who led Black Loyalists from their Nova Scotia exile to a new exile in Sierra Leone.) to name a few. There are cameos for the family of Benedict Arnold, a former slave of George Washington, the Loyalists in the Benjamin Franklin family and many others.
This is not just a recount of personal ordeals. It is a story of ideals as well. Both sides had the rhetoric of rights for all. The Loyalists felt that theirs was the more humanitarian system, the one that best guaranteed individual rights. The narrative shows that both sides easily compromised away minority rights in policies, treaties and lack of protection.
This book presents from a tremendous amount of research from an informed perspective. I highly recommend it to those interested in this period.
Some items of particular interest were (1) the treatment of free black loyalists, many of whom were slaves who were promised freedom if they fought for for the British, (2) the consequences of the war for pro-British Native American peoples, and (3) the sense of entitlement held by many of the wealthier (and white) loyalists with regard to compensation from the Crown.
While there may not be any kind of consistent narrative with LE, it turns a spotlight on several interesting footnotes of history. If you have a particular interest in the period, then this is worth reading. For the more general reader with a passing interest in the American Revolution, this may not be what you are looking for. I would still recommend the book, however, just because the subject is so seldom touched upon.