Independence: The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution

Thomas P Slaughter, Author
Thomas P. Slaughter. Hill and Wang, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-0-8090-5834-1
Reviewed on: 02/24/2014
Release date: 06/10/2014
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-8090-5835-8
Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-0-374-71207-5
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Only bold historians will attempt one-volume histories of the American Revolution’s origins; Slaughter brings his off brilliantly. Rarely, if ever, has this history been told with such graceful readability, freshness, and clarity. It’s mostly narrative history, with Slaughter, a biographer and historian of American naturalists and the early republic, avoiding academic arguments while introducing some of the latest academic perspectives. The major one is to place the coming of the Revolution in its world-historical context and show how colonial events were linked to developments in India, Europe, and elsewhere. Slaughter’s principal interpretive scheme is to show how the colonies had become separate from Britain long before becoming independent. But this organizing theme is applied lightly and never intrudes on the hard-to-put-down tale, filled with apt quotations and captivating human portraits. If there’s a limitation to the book, it’s Slaughter’s conventional top-down approach. Yes, those who rioted in Boston and dumped tea into Boston Harbor play their necessary roles here. But overall, the author too much slights the common people’s part in bringing on independence, then war; and colonial society is absent from the scene. Nevertheless, as a political, event-filled history of its subject, this masterful work is unsurpassed. Maps. (June)
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