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We meant well to the Americans-just to punish them with a few bloody noses, and then to make laws for the happiness of both countries," said George III.The ensuing uprising led to the creation of the United States, the most powerful country in the modern world.
Robert Harvey, whose most recent book Liberators was brilliantly reviewed on both sides of the ocean, challenges conventional views of the American Revolution in almost every aspect-why it happened, who was winning and when, the characters of the principal protagonists, and the role of Native Americans and slaves. In a time when the history of the United States is being reconsidered-when David McCullough's John Adams and Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers top the bestseller lists-Harvey creatively studies this seminal event in the making of the United States. He takes a penetrating look at a war that was both vicious and confused, bloody and protracted, and marred on both sides by incompetence and bad faith. He underscores the effect of the Revolution on the settlers in America, and those at home in Britain-the country that the settlers had left behind, and to which many returned. The result is an extraordinarily fascinating and thoroughly readable account. The American Revolution, writes English scholar Robert Harvey, was a defining event in modern world history, creating "the mightiest nation in human experience." Yet, he adds, in his country the revolution is ignored, while on the American side of the Atlantic it's "clouded by a fog of myth" that prevents understanding. Harvey seeks to illuminate the realities of the conflict. One, as he writes, is the war's strange similarity to Vietnam, not just in the role of guerrilla and militia versus conventional forces, but also in the antiwar strife it produced at home. Another of Harvey's myth-bursting themes is his insistence, contrary to many American textbooks, that the British commanders were not uniformly incompetent, American commanders not uniformly heroic; he cites many examples to show that neither side had a monopoly on either bravery or incompetence. Still another is his argument that the constitutional outcome of the revolution was in many ways a betrayal of the very principles for which the revolution was fought--a charge sure to excite controversy. Harvey's approach is balanced, his writing engaging, and students of the period will learn much from him. --Gregory McNamee