The War for America: 1775-1783

The War for America: 1775-1783

The War for America: 1775-1783

The War for America: 1775-1783

Synopsis

"Mackesy's War for America still stands as the classic account of the British conduct of the American Revolutionary War. Based on extensive research in British archives, it embodies the mature judgments of a masterful military historian."-John W. Shy. "An important book that no serious student of the War of Independence can afford to neglect."-American Historical Review.The events of the American Revolution signified by Lexington, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, Saratoga, and Yorktown are familiar to American readers. Far less familiar is the fact that, for the British, the American colonies were only one front in a world war. England was also pitted against France and Spain. Not always in command of the seas and threatened with invasion, England tried grimly for eight years to subdue its rebellious colonies; to hold Canada, the West Indies, India, and Gibraltar; and to divide its European enemies. In this vivid history Piers Mackesy views the American Revolution from the standpoint of the British government and the British military leaders as they attempted to execute an overseas war of great complexity. Their tactical response to the American Revolution is now comprehensible, seen as part of a grand imperial strategy.Piers Mackesy is a noted historian who lives in Scotland. John W. Shy is a professor of history at the University of Michigan.

Excerpt

Remembering a lost war seldom appeals to historians and their audience unless the recollection of defeat serves some purpose. The American South treasured the memory of Confederate defeat for decades, partly in the faith that the Old South, lost in battle, had been a glorious cause, and partly in the knowledge that the victorious North, in its heart, conceded that the South had been right on the underlying dispute about race. With few exceptions, Japanese historians have shown little interest in the Second World War, and the German attempt to produce a semi-official history of the war aroused a storm of controversy. American college students continue to pack courses on the Vietnam War for motives not altogether clear, but surely because that war seems to promise some clues to solving the puzzle of how America lost its way.

The American Revolutonary War, or War of American Independence as they prefer to call it, has never appealed strongly to British historians and their readers except insofar as it could be used to prove how wrong King George III had been to reject enlightened Whig leadership in his government, and instead to try to rule through royal prerogative. But this essentially political interpretation of the event by Whig historians, like both Trevelyans, distorts the struggle with the American colonies by making it incidental to the more consequential constitutional struggle between an authoritarian king and the emerging concept of responsible party government. Between the Seven Years War, when the great leader William Pitt led the British Empire to victory over France and Spain in 1763, and 1815, when Wellington completed the British-led salvation of Europe from Napoleon, there was a long gap in serious historical attention to how Britain actually waged war. The work of Piers Mackesy has helped substantially to close that gap, not only The War for America but also his earlier and later studies of the coalition wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

Readers should not come to The War for America with misplaced expectations. It is not the rousing battle narrative that makes up so . . .

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