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The War for America, 1775-1783 Paperback – February 1, 1993

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Mackesy’s War for America still stands as the classic account of the British conduct of the American Revolutionary War. Based on extensive research in British archives, it embodies the mature judgments of a masterful military historian."—John W. Shy
(John W. Shy)

"An important book that no serious student of the War of Independence can afford to neglect."—American Historical Review
(American Historical Review)

From the Back Cover

The events of the American Revolution signified by Lexington, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Saratoga, and Yorktown are familiar to American readers. Far less familiar is the fact that, for the British, the American colonies were only one front in a world war. England was also pitted against France and Spain. Not always in command of the seas and threatened with invasion, England tried grimly for eight years to subdue her rebellious colonies; to hold Canada, the West Indies, India, and Gibraltar; and to divide her European enemies. In this vivid history Piers Mackesy views the American Revolution from the standpoint of the British government and the British military leaders as they attempted to execute an overseas war of great complexity. Their tactical response to the American Revolution is now comprehensible, seen as part of a grand imperial strategy.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 569 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; 1st edition (February 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803281927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803281929
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is one of the best non-introductory books available on the American Revolution. In addition to providing an excellent military history , the book clearly describes the issues faced by the British government in trying to deal with the revolution in the context of a world-wide empire. The military and logistic problems facing the British administration were truly formidable. While the book never demeans the American achievement, it clearly lays out the difficulties faced by the British in raising, maintaining, and supplying an army across 3,000+ miles of ocean in an era of sailing ships and limited government powers. It also shows how the European diplomatic environment, particularly the threat of war with France, limited the options available to the British.
In addition to all of the above, the book is extremely well written, a pleasure to read.
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Format: Paperback
The War for America: 1775-1783 by Piers Mackesy. 1964. 565 pages.

This book presents the history of the war from a British point view. Given that it is from a British point of view it covers the war in its entirety from the causes and collision on the green in Lexington, MA to the final shots exchanged in India some eight years later.

The scope of this tome is at the strategic level. This will make it a bit of a surprise for most American readers who are used to the tactical and the operational when it comes this truly global conflict. Global in that the action takes place not just in North America, but also: The East Indies, The West Indies, Central America, The Caribbean, Gibraltar, Minorca, The English Channel, The Atlantic, Africa, and of course India.

In fact the percentage of text which actually covers the operations in North America which most Americans are familiar with is only about 25% of the book. Because it is a strategic overview there is much of the political wrangling which shaped the strategy and limited it as well. This means that readers more familiar with land operations are in for a whole lot of naval history in this book.

The highlights of this book besides its readability given the complexity of the topic are the focus on logistics. As any scholar of war in the American tradition knows logistics trump tactics. This book provides a keen insight into British abilities, failures and accomplishments when trying to fight a global campaign. Of note is the revelation that most British supplies from shovels, bullets, uniforms and even food for the operations in North America were shipped in from the home islands some 3,000 miles away.
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Format: Paperback
I work in a corporate environment, mainly with MBAs. This is one of the very few substantive history books I would actually recommend to my co-workers as professional reading.

"The War for America" focuses on British leadership and decision making during the period of the American Revolution. The author, Piers Mackesy, clearly lays out the objectives of his book this way: "first...to examine the making and executing of strategy in one of England's great eighteenth-century wars, and to create a detailed model of the machine at work; the second, to judge a war Ministry in the light of circumstance rather than results."

In my experience, the challenges and dilemmas that emerge from the narrative apply directly to present day large-scale business enterprises: the danger of a fixed and narrow view of a competitor; the struggle of allocating scarce resources based on imperfect information; the damage caused by personal friction and poor communication between key executives; and the paralysis resulting from differences of opinion over the primary strategic objectives.

To begin with, Mackesy makes it clear that the British never really understood "the market" they were competing in. The overwhelming consensus at Whitehall (and Paris) was that the rebel cause was flamed by a tiny, vocal clique and that a silent loyalist majority was just waiting to be led back to the sovereignty of the crown. This assumption was foundational to the initial British strategy of cutting off rebellious New England from the rest of the colonies and then the southern invasion designed to rally what was supposed to be widespread and deep loyalist sentiment.
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Not written with the "light reader" in mind, this classic work by British historian Piers Mackesy was originally published in 1964 and assumes the reader brings to the effort both a working knowledge of 18th century geopolitics as well as a good grasp of the written word - have your thesaurus handy. The author's theme that domestic politics both informs and impedes strategic decision-making during times of national crisis makes this book relevant in the context of the current crisis in U.S. geopolitics while also providing the reader with a perspective on the American "rebellion" little appreciated by a people raised on cursory histories of the struggles of the Founding "patriots."
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