Killing England, Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard
Someone might need to inform Bill O’Reilly that it is okay to change one’s schtick when it comes to writing popular histories. O’Reilly has a series of books that are all about killing, many of which I have read . It is difficult to tell exactly when the concept went wrong. Many of his books deal with the actual killing of people, however well (Lincoln, Jesus) or poorly (Patton) they go about their task of writing about how it was that people died as a result of murder or at least questionable circumstances that may have been murder. It is an entirely different matter when one talks about killing nations, as O’Reilly has at least two books about that unpleasant matter, this being one of them and another being more accurate but no less harrowing (Killing Japan, which I have not yet read or reviewed). In the case of this book, it would be good if someone let the authors know that England was not killed during the Revolution for any number of reasons, like the fact that many of its soldiers were either Hessians or Loyalists, the even after American won its independence Britain still had an empire that included Canada, a large portion of the Caribbean, some parts of Africa, as well as most of India, and that in the 19th century Great Britain would end up controlling about a quarter of the world’s population. That is far from being killed indeed.
In terms of its contents, this book (I read the large print edition) is about 600 pages long but makes for a fast read because of the large print for my poor eyes. The author has a winsome and conversational tone when dealing with the history of the American Revolution, starting with a look at Washington’s early military career and adding plenty of stories about such people as Benedict Arnold, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Marion, and others. The author is clearly a partisan of the American perspective and he tends to focus mainly on the first phases of the war that included the evacuation of the British army from Boston, the tough years that included the loss of New York and Philadelphia and hard-fought battles in the Middle Atlantic states, as well as the dramatic seesaws of the war in the South that culminated in victory at Yorktown. There is little in this book that many readers will not have read before, but it is told well at least.
Aside from the title, is this book a bad book? Not really. It’s not an amazing history of the American Revolution and it certainly leaves out a lot, but if you’re looking for a popular history that hits many of the high points of the American Revolution and puts it on a context that focuses on the Founding Fathers of the United States, this isn’t a bad book. It can be read profitably by students of the American Revolution, and would be read happily by those who like to focus on the great men of American history as well as the important battles that opened and closed the American Revolution. The author manages to have turned some solid if conventional research into a solid and conventional history of the American Revolution. If only it had a name that reflected its contents better and that was more true to life it might indeed attract an audience outside of those who are partisans of the author as a whole. When one is writing a popular history as a person who is going to be a lightning rod of negative attention, it is best if one does not arm one’s critics with something that can easily be used to bludgeon a book that such critics may not have even read.
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