The American Revolution: A Concise History, by Robert J. Allison
In reading a book like this, I have to take into account that the fact that this book is concise means that it is not likely to say very much of anything that I don’t already know from reading a great many books on the subject. That said, it is worthwhile to consider a book like this as being very useful for someone who does not know a great deal about the American Revolution and who wants a quick but informative guide to understanding it as well as possible. I could see a book like this being useful in AP American History courses or undergraduate studies or for those wanting to become citizens or just better citizens. This book does live up to its name–it is rather short, and it is certainly a very good book given its space constraints. There is a certain art in being able to speak or write in a concise manner, and not everyone is well-equipped to deal with essentials that can be spoken of in a limited amount of space that would require books of several times the length to discuss in their full detail.
Coming in at less than 100 pages, this certainly is a concise history. The author manages to cover the history of the American Revolution in five chapters. After beginning with a chronology and a preface and acknowledgements, the book proper begins with a discussion of the origins of the Revolution in the disagreements that took place after the French & Indian War when it became increasingly clear that Britain and the colonies had some substantial disagreements about their place in the imperial order (1). After that the author discusses the rebellion in the colonies, showing how it was that riots and discontent became armed rebellion in the period before 1776 (2). After that there is a discussion of the period after the Declaration of Independence when Washington showed that he could keep his army on the field despite early defeats around New York City (3). After this the author provides a discussion about the expanding course of the war after Saratoga, including the war in the South that ultimately provided decisive (4). Finally, the author spends the last chapter providing a discussion of American exceptionalism, especially as it can be seen with the decision of George Washington to return to his farm rather than become a military dictator as was common in revolutionary situations (5), after which there are suggestions for further reading and an index.
This is a book that is easy to enjoy. It makes few demands on the reader and presents its information very elegantly, and is something that can be read with pleasure by someone who knows enough to know that the book could go into greater detail or discuss things with greater nuance if time and space permitted. But often they do not, and for those who want to know more about the American Revolution but do not want to acquire my own reading habits would do well to read this book and appreciate what it has to say. After all, in many ways the American Revolution and its repercussions continue to resonate within the United States and elsewhere around the world. And it stands to reason that a book like this would not exist unless there was a reason seen for it, namely the conveyance of important truths about our nation’s founding to interested audience that lack the time or interest to tackle the larger works that are generally written about the subject. A book like this clearly has a niche market to serve, and that niche is relatively large, enough to ensure that this book likely has a great many appreciate readers.