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When London Was Capital of America Hardcover – June 29, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Flavell concentrates on the stories of a few Americans, the only famous one being Benjamin Franklin. One of her subjects is Henry Laurens, one of the many prosperous Southern plantation owners who repaired to London for business or personal reasons. In Laurens's case, he headed to London in 1771 to seek schooling for his sons. In addition, the Laurens family could see real plays, and instead of seeing goods boasted of as "lately arrived from England" could see the goods on site themselves. Flavell says, "Before American independence created a national government and America's own capital, London was where wealthy Americans from all over the empire were most likely to meet." There was the Carolina Coffee House, not a branch of the Starbucks of its time, but a business center where he could meet other plantation owners and find the latest news about prices of indigo and rice and slaves. Traveling with Laurens was his slave and manservant Scipio.Read more ›
The book goes a good way toward correcting the popular understanding that as the difficulties between the two soon-to-be different countries germinated after the end of the Seven Years' War, primarily because of the conflict's costs which Great Britain sought to partly recover from its North American subjects, and which culminated in the American Revolution, each affected royal subject chose a side and the break was clean and irrevocable. Flavell reminds that human nature doesn't work that way, and that the separation was much more gradual, painful and more often than not conflicted than might first appear.
The book has its shortcomings. First among them is that with the exception of the author's treatment of the Laurens family, whose representative history really does warrant the extensive treatment she affords, there isn't a lot new here. Ben Franklin in London may not be quite as familiar as Ben Franklin in Paris, the difference being he was a colonial agent in the first and a revolutionary rock star in the second, but at least this reader found the story of his many years in the city and the ever-diverging relationship with his son pretty familiar territory.Read more ›
We meet a wealthy American household, which sends a son aged seven to school in London. He is accompanied by a black slave who has renamed himself Robert, from Scipio, to fit in better. Upon walking around London the slaves at this time get to see that white people are not all powerful, all wealthy and all respected. Indeed, the gutters and slums are full of poor, sick, begging white people. Not only that, but the plentiful black people meet up and get to talking, and they discover that slavery is not lawful in England. An attempt to grab a slave and throw him on a ship is called kidnap and abduction. No wonder attitudes start to change.
We also contrast American cities of the day with the seat of learning, science and trade London provided. Benjamin Franklin is another character followed through his time in London. The West Indian goods such as sugar were stolen from docks while coffee fuelled commerce. Families considered it acceptable to send an embarrassingly pregnant daughter across the ocean in either direction. Con men thrived on boasts.
I enjoyed reading this account of fast-changing times. However I didn't need it in the depth provided, and we get no street plans of American cities at the time, for contrast. Depending on your requirements from this book you may rate it better than I did.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not what I expected, but a very informative and interesting book.Published 19 months ago by Franklin L. McCarthy
How the Past looks from here
This a fascinating account of the attitudes in both England and the Colonies before and during the American Revolution . Read more
Ms. Flavell obviously knows her history, and I guess her book does address the main subject matter of what life was like for Colonists living in London during the years shortly... Read morePublished on August 23, 2012 by Somersemt
I had never thought much about the relationship of the American colonies to England in the years just prior to the American revolution, so for me this book was full of new... Read morePublished on November 17, 2010 by J. Rosenberg
Some interesting facts about the numbers of Americans were like visiting
London in the 18th century, but it does go on like gossip. Lots of sentences
repeated. Read more