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Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World Paperback – March 6, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As well as a war of independence, the Revolutionary War was a civil conflict in which the losers, white, black, and Indian loyalists, paid dearly. Facing retribution from the victorious patriots, tens of thousands fled the new U.S. to havens in the British Empire. Jasanoff positions her history as the most comprehensive treatment of this topic; accomplished as scholarship, it appeals to general-interest readers through her narrative accounts of several refugees� fates after mass evacuations in 1783. And it will strongly appeal to black-history readers because of Jasanoff�s sifting of abundant documentary evidence generated by Britain�s wartime promise to emancipate slaves who fought in its ranks. Free black loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia, where racial tension impelled some to settle in Sierra Leone, while enslaved black loyalists suffered even harsher consequences, their white loyalist owners forcing them to relocate to Florida, the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Wherever loyalists started their lives anew�in Britain, Canada, India, and even Australia�Jasanoff dramatizes their travails in this discerning social and political history of an overlooked side of the American Revolution. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“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
“Brilliant.” —Newsweek

“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.” —Publishers Weekly (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


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400075475
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400075478
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The "other side" of the American Revolution's story is almost never mentioned in the US. As a reader of history, I was aware of the exodus from NYC and as a native of Western NY, I knew about land grants in Canada to loyalists; however, I had never heard of the "Spirit of 1783", or considered the rights and liberties that might be available through the British model at the time, nor knew that the burning for the US capitol in the War of 1812 was in response to US looting and the burning Upper Canada's parliament. This is the very short list of facts and sentiments that were new to me.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any serious student of the American Revolution should read this book. It brings to life the struggles and trials faced by Colonial Americans who chose to remain loyal to the English crown during the revolution and departed with the British after it ended. The book provides profiles of several loyalists who were uprooted from their native America and departed for distant British lands. All faced difficult times in new lands and often harsh conditions. I found myself wondering if I could have done what they did after a protracted war on American soil only to be uprooted and transported to new places that were more often than not wilderness. Those who went to England were on the one hand loyalist who had stood by the crown yet were Americans regardless and for that looked upon differently. In the final analysis, the 60 to 75 thousand departing Americans had a continuing impact on British rule. That England stood by those who had supported its cause in America says much about the morality of British government at the time. Until now, this had largely been a lost story but thanks to the efforts of Maya Jasanoff it has been rescued from obscurity.
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Format: Hardcover
Overall, I think the book was a rather spotty look at the fate of American Tories after the Revolution. I don't believe that this is the fault of the author so much as it is a result of the scarcity of source materials. The author did a decent job with what she (apparently) had to work with.

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.

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Format: Hardcover
The most interesting part of Liberty's Exiles, for me, was seeing that the Patriots and the Loyalists may well have been two sides of the same coin. Ms Jasanoff tells us that many of the complaints that led to the Revolutionary War were shared by both groups. This was called out most explicitly in the re-settling to Canada - the Crown maintained the status quo in dealing with their overseas colonies, and ran a risk of more revolutions. Ultimately Britain needed to modify its approach to prevent further erosion of the Empire... at least when dealing with "their own".

Minorities didn't qualify for the same treatment in spite of fledgling efforts to eradicate slavery, etc. We see this spelled out in the re-settling of former slaves to all corners of the Empire, but most hopelessly in the Caribbean where slavery seemed untouchable, and most gratingly in the re-settling to W Africa.

In addition to the scholarship of the work, Ms Jasanoff tells a good story. This is particularly true in the first and last portions of the book. In the middle - relocation to the Caribbean - the story dried up and was replaced by what seemed to me a drab recitation of statistics and the inclusion of lots of filler to try to pad this section. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening context setting where Ms Jasanoff shares why the Loyalists were compelled to abandon their American homes, as well as the migration to Canada. As the focus moved to the Bahamas and Jamaica, I found the book increasingly hard to pick up - to the point where I almost didn't.

All said, an interesting look at the issues which followed the Loyalists and caused Britain to rethink their approach to ideas that can spark a revolutionary powder keg.
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