The British Isles and the War of American Independence

The British Isles and the War of American Independence

The British Isles and the War of American Independence

The British Isles and the War of American Independence

Synopsis

This book examines a hitherto neglected aspect of the War of American Independence, providing the first wide-ranging exploration of the impact of this conflict upon the economy, society, and culture of the British Isles. Stephen Conway sheds new light on recent debates about the war-waging efficiency of the British state and on the role of war in the creation of a British national identity. This is a probing account of the profound impact of the war which further challenges the established model of eighteenth-century wars as being 'limited' in the demands and effects.

Excerpt

On 19 April 1775 the constitutional dispute between Britain and its North American colonies finally erupted into open war. For the next thirty months or so, Lord North's government was able to devote much of the military resources at its disposal to crushing the rebellion. But although Washington's Continental army suffered defeats in the field, notably on Long Island, New York, in August 1776 and at Brandy wine Creek, Pennsylvania, in September 1777, the Americans could not be subdued. At length, following the capitulation of a British force under General Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777, the French brought forward their plans to enter the conflict on the side of the new United States, and became belligerents in the early summer of 1778. The next year the Spanish joined the French, and at the end of 1780 the Dutch also became enemies of the British. A colonial rebellion had turned into a world war. The fighting continued in North America, but spread to the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, West Africa, and even India. After the defeat and surrender in October 1781 of another of their armies at York town, Virginia, the British suspended offensive operations in North America and concentrated on salvaging what they could of the rest of their empire. The outcome of the war was not as disastrous as it might have been for the British, thanks largely to the staunch defence of Gibraltar and Admiral Rodney's victory at the battle of the Saintes in April 1782, which saved Jamaica. Nonetheless, in the peace treaties of 1782–3 Britain was obliged to give up most of the mainland North American colonies and to cede territory to France and Spain.

The American war has not lacked historians. Scholars from the United States, not surprisingly, have studied the struggle from the perspective of the birth and early development of their nation.

See e.g. Willard M. Wallace, Appeal to Arms (New York, 1951); Christopher Ward,
The War of the American Revolution, ed. John R. Aldcn (2 vols., New York, 1952); Howard
H. Pcckham, The War for Independence (Chicago, 1958); John R. Aldcn, A History of the
American Revolution
(London, 1969); Don Higginbotham, The War of American Indepen
dence
(New York, 1971); Marshall Smclser, The Winning of independence (New York, 1973);
Robert Middlckauf, The Glorious Cause (New York, 1982).

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