From the Publisher
"A feisty, fearless, edgy book, blissfully bereft of academic jargon, propelled by the energy of an author with the bit in his teeth.”The New York Times Book Review
“In his amassing of mountains of facts from numerous monographs, Phillips has tried to do what most academic historians these days have not been much interested in doing—bring together all the meticulous research that has been going on for decades and turn it into a comprehensive and readable book designed for general readers. Much of what Phillips has written is clear and free of jargon. His assessments of the various military situations, especially those faced by the British, are always realistically based, and his judgments of what was possible and what was not possible for the British to do are always sound.”The New York Review of Books
"Enthralling."Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
"Impressively authoritative...[A] deeply researched, meticulously argued, multidimensional history."Kirkus (starred review)
"A solid, well-argued, and informative re-examination of our beginnings as a nation-state."Booklist
The New York Times Book Review
One does not have to accept Phillips's claim about the seminal significance of 1775 as the decisive year to appreciate his larger achievement. This is a feisty, fearless, edgy book, blissfully bereft of academic jargon, propelled by the energy of an author with the bit in his teeth…Phillips is attempting to occupy the multiple arenaslegislatures, churches, militia units, urban taverns, backwoods firesides, coastal flotillas, munitions depotswhere resistance to British authority became the American Revolution. In that sense, the story he tells is not neat and orderly because making a revolution is, almost by definition, a dizzy experience that no one at the time fully comprehends. Phillips's major accomplishment is to recover that sense of excitement, confusion and improvisation as, almost providentially, the perfect storm formed.
Joseph J. Ellis
The year 1776 is overrated, writes political commentator-turned-historian Phillips (The Cousins’ Wars), who makes a convincing case in this long, detailed, but entirely enthralling account. The July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence, he states, was merely the last of a series of “practical” declarations—opening ports to non-British ships, the formation of the Continental Congress, a “de facto government”—and was immediately followed by months of discouraging military defeats. Luckily, says Phillips, the die had been cast in 1775, when exasperation over Britain’s clumsy attempts to re-exert control over its quasi-independent colonies culminated in a widespread “rage militaire.” Militias organized and drilled, royal governors were forced into exile. Besides the 1775 New England battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, dozens of lesser-known clashes and naval skirmishes occurred that year. More important and almost unnoticed by scholars, Phillips writes, the rebels acquired scarce arms and gunpowder through raids, smuggling, and purchases. By December 1775, the British had left or been expelled everywhere except in besieged Boston. Encyclopedic in exploring the political, economic, religious, ethnic, geographic, and military background of the Revolution, this is a richly satisfying, lucid history from the bestselling author. (Nov.)
Phillips, Pulitzer finalist for The Cousins' Wars, makes a case for 1775 (not 1776) as the revolution's make-or-break year. That was when Congress delivered a bunch of sharp ultimatums to Britain, British troops and royal governors were sent packing, and local patriots grabbed the reins of government. Great for argumentative nonfiction book groups.
A noted historian and political commentator claims 1775 as the American Revolution's true beginning. It will probably take more than this deeply researched, meticulously argued, multidimensional history to dislodge 1776 from the popular mind as the inaugural year of our independence, but Phillips (Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, 2008, etc.) makes the persuasive case--as Jefferson insisted long ago--that a de facto independence existed well before the Declaration of Independence. It wasn't merely a matter of military skirmishes, raids, expeditions and battles that bloodied the year, but also of campaigns opened on other, critical fronts: the ousting of numerous royal governors and lesser officials from office; the takeover of local militias and the establishment of committees, associations and congresses to take up the business of self-government; the desperate scramble for gunpowder and munitions to prosecute the war; and the courting of European powers happy to see Britain weakened. In all these fights during 1775, the colonists made crucial advances, both material and psychological, from which the plodding British never quite recovered. Highlighting, especially, developments in the "vanguard" colonies of Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and South Carolina, where the concentration of wealth, population and leadership accounted for an outsized influence, Phillips explores the ethnic, religious, demographic, political and economic roots of the revolution. He examines the differing class interests (including those of slaves and Native Americans), regional preoccupations and various ideologies, sometimes clashing, sometimes aligning, that contributed to the revolutionary fervor and reminds us how much sorting out was necessary to prepare the national mind for the new order that the Declaration merely ratified. Casual readers may find Phillips' treatment a bit daunting, but serious history students will revel in the overwhelming detail he marshals to make his convincing argument. Impressively authoritative.