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When London Was Capital of America Hardcover – June 29, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Before the Revolutionary War, England had a complex relationship with its colonial properties, but one truth always held: London was the center of the British Empire and therefore, the center of the world, politically, culturally, and intellectually. As such, it drew students, merchants, intellectuals, and fortune hunters from all over the empire. Flavell's comprehensive examination of London's lure to colonists focuses on specific individuals, including a wealthy merchant, his scientist son, the slave who makes a gamble on freedom, and Benjamin Franklin. Through these sketches readers begin to derive a complex understanding of London's role in the Empire and its influence over colonial styles, affiliations, and racial attitudes. Having poured through manuscripts from the time, Flavell argues that the American colonies were a far more multicultural place than American history books tend to depict, and that the British perception of the colonies was not as simplistic as we've been led to believe. Flavell writes in a compelling and succinct style, and history fans will be intrigued by his interpretation of a tumultuous time that shaped the fate of nations.
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"A fascinating account of Americans in London in the 1760s and 1770s. Julie Flavell ingeniously weaves together the experiences of the Laurens family of South Carolina, Stephen Sayre of Long Island, and Benjamin Franklin, plus many other colonists, to reveal the rich variety of their London life, and she also illuminates the growing tensions of the revolutionary crisis in strikingly new ways."—Richard S. Dunn, author of Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713
"Before Americans had a Washington - or any other capital city worthy of the name - they had London. Taking as her subject the men and women, young and old, enslaved and free, high-born and humble, who crossed the Atlantic in the years just before and during the Revolution, Julie Flavell paints a vivid and compelling picture of London as the cultural, political, and economic center of colonial American life."—Eliga H. Gould, author of The Persistence of Empire: British political Culture in the Age of the American Revolution
Top customer reviews
This a fascinating account of the attitudes in both England and the Colonies before and during the American Revolution .The Rebellion,as it was termed, was viewed in that era,as a tedious but justified uprising against government policy, Just that -- not a bid for separation.
In American History Classes, this has long been presented as an heroic, single-minded endeavor toward Liberty
I own and have carefully read countless books about that era in our American past, and I was looking forward to some new insight regarding the mindset of the citizens of that day. And that is what was somewhat disappointing to me. She goes on at great length about one Henry Laurens, a Southern plantation owner with close ties to London, but perhaps more should have been revealed about others rather than devoting a good third of the book to someone who has disappeared in the fog of time.
The best part of her book is near the end when good old Ben Franklin appears. But for me it was too little too late. And the spelling of "defense" as "defence", and "gaol" for "jail" throughout the book was distracting at best. I firmly believe Ms. Flavell has a great deal to offer but Heather McCallum, her editor at Yale University Press, should have told her that one mention of an occasion or situation is enough. Telling us the same details over and over again simply becomes tedious.
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. Secondly, for a book with as many acknowledgements of editorial scrutiny and the Yale University Press as its publisher, there are a surprisingly large number of gaffes, including the spelling of words that might confuse a sixth-grader but should not escape even a casual editor.
Overall, the book is a worthwhile read for those interested in the period and relations between the `old' and `new countries. A prospective reader, however, should bear in mind that there is nothing, pardon me, `revolutionary' in these pages.
John Wilkes is mentioned in this book. For readers seeking more on Mr. Wilkes' vibrant political life, I highly recommend "John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty" by Arthur H. Cash (2006).
London in the 18th century, but it does go on like gossip. Lots of sentences
repeated. It could have been cut down by 40% and been a better book rather
than being like a run-on sentence. What happened to the people at Yale that
they would not do this.