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1775: A Good Year for Revolution

1775: A Good Year for Revolution

3.3 12
by Kevin Phillips, Arthur Morey (Read by)

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What if the year we have long commemorated as America’s defining moment was in fact misleading? What if the real events that signaled the historic shift from colony to country took place earlier, and that the true story of our nation’s emergence reveals a more complicated—and divisive—birth process?

In this major new work, iconoclastic


What if the year we have long commemorated as America’s defining moment was in fact misleading? What if the real events that signaled the historic shift from colony to country took place earlier, and that the true story of our nation’s emergence reveals a more complicated—and divisive—birth process?

In this major new work, iconoclastic historian and political chronicler Kevin Phillips upends the conventional reading of the American Revolution by puncturing the myth that 1776 was the struggle’s watershed year. Mythology and omission have elevated 1776, but the most important year, rarely recognized, was 1775: the critical launching point of the war and Britain’s imperial outrage and counterattack and the year during which America’s commitment to revolution took bloody and irreversible shape.

Phillips focuses on the great battlefields and events of 1775—Congress’s warlike economic ultimatums to king and parliament, New England’s rage militaire, the panicked concentration of British troops in militant but untenable Boston, the stunning expulsion of royal governors up and down the seaboard, and the new provincial congresses and many hundreds of local committees that quickly reconstituted local authority in Patriot hands. These onrushing events delivered a sweeping control of territory and local government to the Patriots, one that Britain was never able to overcome. 1775 was the year in which Patriots captured British forts and fought battles from the Canadian frontier to the Carolinas, obtained the needed gunpowder in machinations that reached from the Baltic to West Africa and the Caribbean, and orchestrated the critical months of nation building in the backrooms of a secrecy-shrouded Congress. As Phillips writes, “The political realignment achieved amid revolution was unique—no other has come with simultaneous ballots and bullets.”

Surveying 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 perception he has shown in analyzing contemporary politics and economics. He mines rich material as he surveys different regions and different colonies and probes how the varying agendas and expectations at the grassroots level had a huge effect on how the country shaped itself. He details often overlooked facts about the global munitions trade; about the roles of Indians, slaves, and mercenaries; and about the ideological and religious factors that played into the revolutionary fervor.

The result is a dramatic account brimming with original insights about the country we eventually became. Kevin Phillips’s 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.)
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

Library Journal
Noted political analyst Phillips (Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism) objects to the oversimplifications concerning the Revolutionary War made by professional historians and laity who mischaracterize its spirit and causes. With painstaking detail and extensive documentation, he convincingly demonstrates that rebelliousness, resentment, and confrontation had been increasing for decades before 1776; colonials had been organizing, networking, arming, and training since 1774; and Lexington-Concord was no surprise. He argues that 1775, not 1776 (misused shorthand for the birth of independence), is the pivotal year for the clash. Phillips focuses on religious and ethnic animosities, commercial frustrations, emerging American nationalism and expansionism, political ideology, and anger over deliberate, threatening English restrictions as the complex causes for war. As he did in The Cousins' Wars (1999), he particularly emphasizes the role of religion in the conflict, arguing that Calvinism provided impetus to insurgency, and continues his characterization of the Revolution as a civil war. VERDICT Phillips relies primarily on numerous secondary sources, analyzing over 200 years of the historiography of the Revolution to present the complete picture. The exhaustive detail will lose some casual readers, but the steadfast popular or academic Revolutionary-era enthusiast will be enlightened.—Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY
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.

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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 last four of which have been New York Times bestsellers. The Cousins’ Wars was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history in 2000. 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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.