cover image The War Before Independence: 1775-1776

The War Before Independence: 1775-1776

Derek W. Beck. Sourcebooks, $26.99 (528p) ISBN 978-1-4926-3309-9

Beck follows 2015's Igniting the American Revolution: 1773%E2%80%931775 with another rich and accessible popular history of the early Revolutionary period. He opens about a month after the violent confrontation between the British and Americans at Concord. Covering the battle of Bunker Hill, the siege of Quebec, and the end of the siege of Boston, Beck's narrative offers plenty of vivid details that bring the conflict to life. Lay readers with only a general familiarity with this period of the war will find some surprises, including Dr. Benjamin Church, the chairman of the rebels' Committee of Safety, turning traitor, and the lord mayor and aldermen of London sending a petition to King George III accusing him of tolerating despotic rule over their fellow subjects in America. After being designated commander-in-chief, George Washington struggled to instill discipline in his troops, an irony that stemmed from the "rhetoric of the Revolution itself," which was a "concerted effort of social insubordination" that did not mesh well with the army's dependence on its members' adherence to the obligations of rigid military ranks. Beck occasionally lapses into purple prose and has a fondness for unnecessarily emphasizing dramatic moments, but he tells the story well. Illus. Agent: Doug Grad, Doug Grad Literary. (May)