Even if history is written by the victors, as the cliché goes, the losers usually get to tell their side of the story too. Nowadays, accounts of the First and Second World Wars and other conflicts, including the American Civil War, incorporate the perspectives of both sides to give a more intricate picture of how events unfolded and the factors that drove them. The American Revolutionary War, however, marks an important exception. British historians have largely neglected a defeat that complicated the story of their country’s rise to imperial greatness, while Americans have tended to operate within the parameters set by the prejudices and assumptions of 19th-century patriotic writers. Later efforts at revising their accounts rarely challenged the overarching narrative of how the United States gained independence.
In this book, Andrew O’Shaughnessy corrects the oversight, arguing that the British perspective is essential for making the war intelligible. British actions, he points out, set the terms for American responses from the outset. Resistance to policy made in London increased tensions that escalated into open conflict in 1775. British