- Series: The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History
- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; Edition Unstated edition (June 11, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300191073
- ISBN-13: 978-0300191073
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.3 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 135 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire (The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture and History) Hardcover – June 11, 2013
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Top customer reviews
In four parts, consisting of nine chapters and 361 pages, Professor O'Shaughnessy introduces his readers to each of the ten men who played a part in the political or military prosecution of the war - all British and their participation explained from the perspective of the British - without American partiality. This book is a, "what went wrong?" postmortem of the events of 1775-1783... even so, the parallels to the U.S. conflicts of 1955-1975, or 2003-2011, or 2001 to present - are hard to miss regardless of your politics.
Little if anything is the "warmed over" of past reads. The book is full of first discoveries and fresh perspectives. Its writing flows easily and the author thoughtfully reintroduces the second-tier characters for his (American?) readers as they reappear in the separate parts and chapters of the book, many of whom may be, "household names" in the UK... are less so in the US!
There are over 100 additional pages of citations, bibliography, index, afterward materials (in the scholarly fashion) for those who may care to further pursue a point, or continue their reading on the topic. And, bound in the center of the book are very interesting color plate portraits of the principals, reproduced from the originals in the British National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II. This is clearly a 5-star book, but that said, its story, as its title implies, is finely focused and a perfect read IF that focus matches your interest. Highly recommended, but not for all.
See also Harlow Giles Unger's account, American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution for some empathetic sense of Great Britain's consternation with the Colonies, in a nuanced and non traditional look at the spark that brought about the American Revolution.
The reader gets an invaluable look at the three primary reasons that the war was not only lost, but doomed to failure before it commenced. First, the British grossly misjudged the number of loyalists among the American population, their commanders waiting time and again, against all hope, for pro-British colonists to come forward to fight with them. Second, and despite the fact that a good map would have revealed the truth of it, they under-appreciated the sheer size of the theater they were trying to conquer and hold, essentially never succeeding in first taking and then being able to secure any sizeable chunk of territory. Third, and perhaps most crucially, they simply could neither afford nor transport enough men and materiel to overwhelm the opposition. Add to these reasons the more subtle but nonetheless crucial inability of the leadership to set and adhere to priorities among Britain’s Caribbean holdings, the continuing threat of French and/or Spanish intervention, and other pressing demands, and you have all the makings of the disaster that inevitably ensued.
The book does present a couple of issues, though. The first and most important is the difficulty faced by any author who undertakes to fashion joint biographies of contemporaries engaged in the same enterprise, repetition of events and attitudes. For instance, by the time the reader has completed the portraits of George III and Prime Minister Lord North, he understands many times over that North early on really, really, absolutely, urgently, and honest to goodness wanted to resign. Indeed, the reader understands so well that he is tempted to resign himself, resign, that is, from reading the rest of the book. Second, the author is a pedestrian writer who while he does a decent job of portraying the respective roles of the subjects, lapses into Wikipedia-like flatness when he sets out the ‘after-action’ lives of the protagonists. Finally, and as I wrote in my review of “The Siege of Fort William Henry,” I guess authors don’t want to take the time to consult Mapquest or Google Earth when citing locations and distances. On page 142, O’Shaughnessy writes, “The delay allowed the enemy force to strengthen their fortifications at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, the former situated at the north end of Lake George and the latter near the southern end of Lake Champlain.” Uh, no. Ticonderoga is indeed located at the southern end of Lake Champlain, and Crown Point is located approximately 10 miles NNW, just a bit farther up Champlain’s western shore and relatively nowhere near Lake George.
All in all, this a most worthwhile read, and not only because you won’t find the same amalgam somewhere else. It stands alone as an excellent and unique piece of scholarship, innovative and long overdue.
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That being said, it is not a book for novices on Revolutionary War history.Read more