cover image Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution

Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution

Woody Holton. Simon & Schuster, $35 (800p) ISBN 978-1-4767-5037-8

Bancroft Prize winner Holton (Abigail Adams) spotlights in this sweeping history the role “women, Native Americans, African Americans, and other unknown Americans” played in the Revolutionary era. Covering the 1750s to the 1790s, Holton examines relatively obscure episodes, including the 1755 Battle of Monongahela in the French and Indian War, which helped shape George Washington’s tactics as commander of the Continental Army and exacerbated tensions between the colonists and Indigenous Americans. Pushing back against accounts that prioritize the Stamp Acts, Holton argues that by 1765, “free colonists” had come to believe that “Parliament had already subverted their vital interests to those of British sugar planters hoping to corner the molasses market, Native Americans trying to defend their land, and British merchants bent on bleeding them dry.” Holton also profiles lesser-known individuals, including Louis Cook, who served as “the highest-ranking Native American in the Continental officer corps—and its only African American.” Examining the consequences of the Revolution, Holton shows that many of the “modest gains” of “ordinary freemen” were erased by the Constitution, and argues that other marginalized groups suffered “more misery than freedom.” Skillfully probing the Revolution’s ambiguities and inconsistencies, this richly detailed, multidimensional history casts America’s founding in a revealing new light. Illus. Agent: Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary. (Oct.)