Book Review: Guide To The American Revolution 1774-1783

Guide To The American Revolution 1774-1783, by Daniel Marston

This book, the second of the series of Osprey historical guides that I have read [1], provides an intriguing and brief perspective on the American Revolution. For one, it is written from the British point of view, which means it tends to exculpate the British (at the expense of the Hessians) and tends to take a far more imperial view of the American Revolution that focuses almost as much on the Mediterranean, India, and the West Indies as it does on the main theater of operations in North America. While this focus is not at all unusual for those who have studied the American Revolution in detail, it would be quite a shock for many Americans who know little about the broader implications of the American Revolution. Of immediate note, of course, is the fact that the author considers the American Revolution to have begun not with the Declaration of Independence or even with the battles of Lexington and Concord, but rather with the First Continental Congress.

Although this is a short book (like the other members of its series) it manages to encourage the reader to examine its thoughts about the connection between the American Revolution and the Seven Years War, with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and also with the struggle for control of India. The book pays special attention to issues of logistics, naval concerns, and recruitment, areas that tend to be forgotten when one is examining warfare from the point of view as a reader. As someone with an interest in these matters, it is generally pleasing when I can find that these interests are shared in books that even in their brevity examine the larger side of military efforts rather than merely rehashing the same sort of tactics or operational concerns. The authors of this book even manage to discuss some grand strategy, greatly criticizing the British effort for underestimating the strength of rebellion and squandering their last chance to stop American independence in 1777.

Readers who expect a lengthy and comprehensive treatment of the American Revolution, especially in battle tactics, are likely to be a little disappointed. The book, likewise, does not discuss in great detail the political debates on both sides of the Atlantic (including the substantial amount of British support among the Whigs for the American cause before the Declaration of Independence). Nevertheless, as a book that is brief, contains a few intriguing and unusual perspectives (a long-serving American soldier and a Boston loyalist) as well as a thoughtful overview of the war in a chronological and thematic fashion that whets the appetite of the reader for more reading. That appears to be the purpose of these guides after all, to provide a thoughtful start in examining a given subject and giving the reader a lot to think about and research in future works. This value makes it worthwhile to deal with its occasional typos (like misspelling the name of American General Nathaniel Greene, for example) as well as its generally superficial nature.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/book-review-guide-to-the-collapse-of-yugoslavia-1991-1999/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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