The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence

Marc Aronson, Author . Clarion $20 (238p) ISBN 978-0-618-18179-7

Aronson's opening author's note explains that this title, together with two of his previous books (about John Winthrop and Oliver Cromwell, and about Sir Walter Ralegh) comprise "three acts in the unfolding saga of the period between the first English explorations of the New World and the birth of the United States." In what he calls a "transnational" approach to history, he frames the events of the American Revolution in the context of global economic and intellectual developments. Aronson then zeroes in on the Boston Tea Party ("why tea?") in a kind of microcosm of the forces at work, weaving together the history of the East India Company leading up to its financial crisis, the roles of Empire and colony and changing ideas of liberty. Aronson skillfully brings the personalities at the drama's center to life, most notably the well-born but cash-poor Robert Clive, who parlayed a minor job with the East India Company into a fortune and helped solidify an empire, but the narrative also offers new insight into George Washington. Aronson excels at making the material accessible, whether defining "mercantilism" or what it meant to become an American. Even the illustrations' captions are clever (e.g., one describing the unusual circumstances surrounding Samuel Adams and his portraitist). Unfortunately, the institutional design does little to serve the narrative. While the ending (connecting these events to Gandhi and the Civil Rights Movement) might feel a bit rushed, Aronson offers a timely and relevant interpretation of this chapter of history, its contradictions and its compromises. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/12/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
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