Monday, 6 February 2017
Book Review: The Men Who Lost America by Andrew O'Shaughnessy
Author: Andrew O'Shaughnessy
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Publication Date: 2013
Source: Xmas Gift
The loss of America was a stunning and unexpected defeat for the powerful British Empire. Common wisdom has held that incompetent military commanders and political leaders in Britain must have been to blame, but were they? This intriguing book makes a different argument. Weaving together the personal stories of ten prominent men who directed the British dimension of the war, historian Andrew O’Shaughnessy dispels the incompetence myth and uncovers the real reasons that rebellious colonials were able to achieve their surprising victory. In interlinked biographical chapters, the author follows the course of the war from the perspectives of King George III, Prime Minister Lord North, military leaders including General Burgoyne, the Earl of Sandwich, and others who, for the most part, led ably and even brilliantly. Victories were frequent, and in fact the British conquered every American city at some stage of the Revolutionary War. Yet roiling political complexities at home, combined with the fervency of the fighting Americans, proved fatal to the British war effort. The book concludes with a penetrating assessment of the years after Yorktown, when the British achieved victories against the French and Spanish, thereby keeping intact what remained of the British Empire. (Goodreads Synopsis)
The Men Who Lost America is a fairly 'stodgy' read in a way, with a combination of small font size and dense prose making it slow going, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. O'Shaughnessy paints compelling portraits of the key players on the British side during the Revolution, considering the reasons behind their choices and suggesting that circumstances and incorrect intelligence, rather than plain incompetence, led to their ultimate defeat. Prior knowledge of the major events of the Revolution is useful in reading this book, as O'Shaughnessy concentrates his attention on the political side of things. However, for American Revolution scholars and devotees, this is an excellent addition to any library, for it offers a very different approach to the subject that is certain to change the way you view the course of the war and the players therein. 4.5 stars.