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The War for America, 1775-1783 Paperback – February 1, 1993
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As editor John Shy points out in his introduction to this edition, British historians refer to the American Revolution as the American Revolutionary War or the War of American Independence. These names already hint at the broader view I mentioned. Like the Seven Years' War that preceded it, the American Revolution was a global war. While American accounts of the war do acknowledge the importance of France's entry into the war, they often only focus on the participation of the French military in the North American theater and the financial assistance provided by the French government. However, the struggle between the English, French and Spanish navies for dominance in the West Indies and the European theater were strategically more important than the battles in the Carolinas and Virginia that Americans are more familiar with; in fact, the over-extension of the British navy across all these theaters set the stage for the defeat of the British at Yorktown.
Readers looking for additional books about British politics during the American Revolution might want to consider "The American Revolution" written by George Otto Trevelyan between 1897 and 1914; it is available in a one volume abridgement edited by Richard B. Morris. However, Trevelyan was not a trained historian and brought his own Whig bias to his treatment of King George the Third, Lord North, Lord George Germain, and other British politicians of the period such as Charles Fox and Edmund Burke. The last two get much more attention from Travelyan than from Mackesy since they were in the opposition and therefore not directly involved in the conduct of the war.
You will be well rewarded. Cheers Ed.
I have always wondered how England, one of the super powers of the day, could have lost this war to a group of undisciplined farmers. Mackesy provides a detailed account of the problems facing the English and the decisions which led to their defeat. The book is painstakingly annotated throughout and shows a depth of research that gives credit to the efforts of the author.
It is written from the English point of view, with detailed descriptions of the English leaders' strategies, their internal politics and how they responded to the events on the ground. Be ready for a wealth of detail concerning English politicians, their relationships, culture, and how all these factors affected their actions in pursuit of the war. This strength is also its weakness: it would have been a stronger book if more information had been given about the strategies of the Colonial forces and the other European nations in the conflict.
The book was written in 1964 as the US involvement in Viet Nam was just beginning. The similarities between the difficulties faced by the English and the difficulties the American forces faced 200 years later and a continent away were too clear to be overlooked. Perhaps if the problems faced by the English had been better absorbed by our military leaders, we would have pursued a different path.
While occasionally Mackesy's roots show through in his semi-apologetic descriptions of the English side's problems and losses, all in all it is a well written and dispassionate description of the times and the conflict. I recommend it for readers looking for a deeper understanding of the Revolutionary War and of the problems faced by any nation attempting to impose its will on a foreign population.