cover image Peoples Hist of the Am -Op/106

Peoples Hist of the Am -Op/106

Ray Raphael. New Press, $25.95 (386pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-653-1

California-based writer Raphael (An Everyday History of Somewhere; etc.) offers an accessible study of the American Revolution, as part of a series edited by Howard Zinn, and in the tradition of his A People's History of the United States. Most books on the Revolution focus on generals and kings, although scholars have, in the last two decades, turned some of their attention to the lives of ordinary people. Raphael transforms the best insights of that scholarship into a lively, readable narrative. Yes, kings and generals were important, but it was the people at large who brought about American independence. Even before the war started, ordinary people were involved in protesting British abuses, refusing to consume tea and other British luxury items. Women supported the Revolution by spinning their own cloth (rather than buying it from Britain) and working the farms their husbands left behind when the militia called them to the front. Young men eager to ""git"" their rights uncomplainingly subsisted on moldy bread while they camped out in the snow, waiting to encounter Redcoats. White colonists weren't the only Americans affected by the war. Abenaki Indians, for example, were paid to fight alongside the rebels. Raphael also shows how many slaves, infected with the freedom-fighting spirit, bid unsuccessfully for their own independence via insurrections, escape and reasoning. Both English and American armies wanted the slaves' loyalties, and the slaves, in turn, believed that if they served the winning side, they would gain freedom. Moving from broad overviews to stories of small groups or individuals, Raphael's study is impressive in both its sweep and its attention to the particular. The book will delight, educate and entertain all Revolution buffs. (Apr.)