1775: A Good Year for Revolution

1775: A Good Year for Revolution

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by Kevin Phillips
     
 

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The contrarian historian and analyst upends the conventional reading of the American Revolution

In 1775, iconoclastic historian and bestselling author Kevin Phillips punctures the myth that 1776 was the watershed year of the American Revolution. He suggests that the great events and confrontations of 1775—Congress’s belligerent economic

Overview

The contrarian historian and analyst upends the conventional reading of the American Revolution

In 1775, iconoclastic historian and bestselling author Kevin Phillips punctures the myth that 1776 was the watershed year of the American Revolution. He suggests that the great events and confrontations of 1775—Congress’s belligerent economic ultimatums to Britain, New England’s rage militaire, the exodus of British troops and expulsion of royal governors up and down the seaboard, and the new provincial congresses and hundreds of local  committees that quickly reconstituted local authority in Patriot hands­—achieved a  sweeping Patriot control of territory and local government that Britain was never able to overcome.  These each added to the Revolution’s essential momentum so when the British finally attacked in great strength the following year, they could not regain the control they had lost in 1775.

Analyzing the political climate, economic structures, and military preparations, as well as the roles of ethnicity, religion, and class, Phillips tackles the eighteenth century with the same skill and insights he has shown in analyzing contemporary politics and economics.  The result is a dramatic narrative brimming with original insights. 1775 revolutionizes our understanding of America’s origins.

Editorial Reviews

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 arenas—legislatures, churches, militia units, urban taverns, backwoods firesides, coastal flotillas, munitions depots—where 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
Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670025121
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/27/2012
Pages:
656
Product dimensions:
6.58(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.38(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A solid, well-argued, and informative re-examination of our beginnings as a nation-state."—Booklist

Meet the Author

Kevin Phillips has been a political and an economic commentator for four decades. This is his fifteenth book. The predecessor to this book, The Cousins’ Wars, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. He lives in Connecticut.

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1775: A Good Year for Revolution 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Vermont More than 1 year ago
If you are truly interested in detailed history of how the revolution began, the interaction of individuals who played a major part, what part each of the 13 colonies, played, and would like to eliminate the overly simplistic portrayal of the American revolution with which most of us have been presented over the years, you will enjoy this book. It is far more detailed than most readers will want but that is what makes it so revealing and so educational. Phillips shows that the revolution did not come easily outside of New England. Some colonies came close to having their own civil war. The war was not popular in England to the point troops to fight the colonials had to be rented from other countries. Crops of the South played a major role in supplying the patriots with arms and powder. There was far more than the Stamp Act, the tea tax, the Quebec Act and the stationing of English troops in the colonies that led to such dissatisfaction with King George and English politicians that brought so many colonials to the point of revolution. Phillips details it all and, for me at least, provides a history I never knew.
BrianIndianFan More than 1 year ago
Most of the apathy people have towards history is the recitation of dates and places. It is understandable that the human experience is in essence one long narrative, teaching history in terms of bits and pieces does not allow for true learning and understanding. Such an approach to history tends to make events appear to spring from nowhere, like the Declaration of Independence. Kevin Phillips successfully argues that Declaration of Independence was the final step - and not the first - towards war with England. In his book, Phillips begins by dismantling the need for a hard and fast start to the beginning of the Revolution. The fact that the Declaration comes almost 16 months after the skirmish at Lexington and Concord - and about a year after other small battles between Continental and Crown forces - serves to illustrate that the Revolutionary War really began in 1775. In 1774, the colonies were beginning to secure arms and other war materiel in anticipation of a fight. On two separate occasions the colonies had resorted to economic warfare to affect changes in policies enacted by Parliament. In addition, colonials had been working the various courts of Europe to assist them in their quest. This book looks at the year 1775 from various points of view, military, economic, religious, social, etc. Phillips leaves no stone un-turned in his effort to show that what many would call the run-up to the Revolutionary War could in point of fact be considered the conduct of the war itself. Indeed, the colonial policy of non-importation and -exportation in 1775 was tantamount to an act of war, which King George III and Parliament duly noted. Once finished, the reader will come away with a new sense of appreciation for the Founding Fathers. The road to independence was not a smooth one, but the path taken was not an accidental one; it was premeditated and well thought out. BOTTOM LINE: The essential book for Revolutionary War students.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want add view of how the American Revolution came to pass, should read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have been doing genealogy research this past year. As I read the local histories and documents, I am discovering US history is more complicated than the story in the average history book. I am suspicious American understanding of our history may be more biased than is assumed. This bias may be a large influence in how we perceive American identity, historical goals, reality, and even our documents. In his introduction, Phillips makes reference to this disparity between facts and myths. I am interested in reading his position and comparing it to the original facts and the common interpretation of the facts. There is a bibliography to assist readers to find and read documents that influenced Phillips research. For those serious about learning the real American history, this book may provide a framework for more study. That is the reason I will read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It read like a book report and it was heavy in foreshadowing.
bama81 More than 1 year ago
as above. 81BAMA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pigeon hole one year without describing why it's abundantly more crucial than '74 or '76? Historically accurate but definitely more opinion than history. This book wasn't bad, but for $20 bucks, i expect a lot better.