The story of the American Revolution told from the unique perspective of British Parliament and the streets of London, rather than that of the Colonies. Here, Nick Bunker explores and illuminates the dramatic chain of events that led to the outbreak of the war-revealing a tale of muddle, mistakes, and misunderstandings by men in London that led to the Boston tea party and then to the decision to send redcoats into action against the minutemen. Charting the three years prior to the war during which the British regime in America was already collapsing, Bunker shows how a lethal combination of politics and personalities led to a war that should never have been fought. Revisiting the tea party from the point of view of British economics and drawing upon new and unpublished sources from Britain and the U.S., he argues that thanks to the colonialists' misunderstandings about the strength of British power, and London's inability to take American cries for freedom seriously, both were pushed beyond the point of compromise. The outcome? A war that few welcomed but all were powerless to stop.
©2014 Nick Bunker (P)2014 Recorded Books
Writing reviews is work. Therefore, I need to be really happy or really unhappy with a book to write one.
... the fall of the Berlin Wall have to do with the American Revolution? Read and learn.
Maybe its a left brain/right brain thing, a touch of ADHD, or simply a liking for puzzles, but this is the kind of history I enjoy. I have enormous respect for historical biographers who fasten on their subject and track down all the small details of their lives, and have worked my way through a lot of their books (with Audible making it a bit easier than reading), but neither enjoy them or retain much afterwards.
On the other hand, I couldn't wait to get back to "Empire" as it skipped around throwing in everything from a nobleman who "looked like a lamb chop in parsley," the Gaspe Incident (giving Rhode Island more credit for the Revolution than we ever hear about in Boston), to the 1792 financial crisis, and much more. Even though I know how it all turned out, its a lot of fun seeing it put together, as the author says in one part, "like a jigsaw." And, by the way, I hardly ever comment on the readers, but this one is perfect for the subject.
If you try this book and like it, you might like Citizens of London, A World on Fire, and Conspiracy of Fools - different subjects, same style.
Occasionally I come across a book that is so interesting that I am torn between not wanting to stop listening and not wanting to finish and, in spite of the lackluster narration, this is such a book.
Mr Bunker has given us a book that, for the first time in my reading experience, describes how the American Revolution got started, but from the British perspective. Here we are told what motivated the British to take the stands that they did, the effect of speculation on both the East India Company and the price of tea, the rampant smuggling of tea in both the UK and the colonies, why the Tea Party was such an important event to the British, the internal divisions within all of the factions on the British side, the effect, or lack thereof, of such prominent people as William Pitt The Elder, Lord North, Edmund Burke, King George III and others and much else. While the cast of this book is mostly British it also covers the actions of some Americans who were central to the formation of both British and American policies - John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hutchinson and others. All of this takes place before the The Declaration of Independence and the start of the actual fighting, so much of it is not covered in any detail in both US History classes and in many books about the revolution.
There are some omissions. One thing that is not discussed is why the British Government never offered the colonies representation in Parliament since that was one of the main complaints within the colonies and the source of their resistance to the taxation and since it partly led to the revolution. Some books I have read of this period said that some of the leading revolutionary figures did not really want representation since it removed one of their main complaints, but I have never read anything in detail about why the British Government did not make the offer so as to remove that complaint. And, as the author points out, the idea of taxing the colonies without giving them representation was understood by the British Government and King George III to be a legitimate source of grievance.
What stands out most clearly in this book is the amount of ignorance both sides had of the other. The Americans petitioned King George III for a relief of actions which they saw as intolerable not realizing that even the King had no power to overturn these actions had he wanted to, and the British did not seem to understand how strongly the colonials felt that British action was destroying their freedoms. One of the appendices of this book describes the British Law concerning treason and why the British felt they had both a clear case of repeated treasonous acts by the colonials and no choice in what actions they had to take, even if they did not wish to do so.
All in all a very interesting and informative book. I found the narration by Robert Mackenzie to be both hesitant and uninspired. There are long pauses in the narration but parts are sufficiently fast that I found I could not speed it up to 1.25x without losing the ability to digest what is being said. The events being described were literally world-shaking, but Mr Mackenzie’s voice never seems to convey just how important the things being described are. So, excellent book, fair narration.
Yes, The reader was excellent in his diction and has a pleasing tambour to his voice.
Lord North. It was he put together the scheme that drove the Revolution forward, although he did not know it at the time.
Excellent diction and a pleasing tambour to his voice. You don't get tired of listening to it.
Nick Bunker in his book makes a rather persuasive case that a scheme hatched in London to stabilize a financial panic, rescue a bankrupt East India Company, to frustrate smugglers undercutting English merchant sale of tea and a three penny taxes on tea were economic driving forces that drove American subjects to revolt. The financial rescue of the East India Company from certain bankruptcy who had imported to much tea causing the market to collapse was to be bolstered by shipping cut price tea to America to sweeten the fact they had to pay a three penny tax on the product to which the Americans has not consented. All this cheap tea would ruin the profit margins of smugglers of tea and would establish a monopoly on tea for the Crown through its rescued puppet the East India Company. This would establish a pattern to monopolize other products and extract taxes for the crown.
Certainly, this was not the only cause of the American Revolution. There was decade’s long neglect from Whitehall, lack luster officials, followed by the Crown’s attempt to reassert their authority through taxes and seek redress for debts the Crown ran up fighting a very expensive French and Indian war on behalf of its American colonies. The fly in the ointment was the colonists had no representation in Parliament to consent to being taxed. For more on this sense of entitlement to consent to taxation I recommend reading Daniel Hannan “Inventing Freedom”.
An Empire on the Edge, does a bang up job of covering the economic forces that were driving the Motherland’s decision that pushed the colonies to resist that lead to the Revolution. I personally see some interesting parallels to the 2009 economic disaster and banks that were too big to fail that the government rescued to prevent a continued financial panic. The only thing missing were colonies we had neglected upon which we would dump the cost. In its place the American taxpayer bailed out the speculative mismanaging modern day East India Company the banks.
This is a meticulously researched, cogently argued and clearly written book. Bunker’s thesis is that the largely haphazard and privately financed ways in which Britain established its American colonies, and then the mostly hands’-off approach to their oversight, left Americans relatively free to create their own societies and means of governing those societies. The availability of land in America and the lack of institutional authority made Americans both freer and more responsible for their own destiny than were most British. The two societies were therefore drifting apart, making their separation almost inevitable.
When Parliament then tried to assert greater control over the colonies following the Seven Years’ War, it was for the most part ignorant of conditions in, and the expectations of, the colonies. Several years of miscommunication and misunderstanding followed, accelerating the eventual breakup.
Bunker does excellent work interpreting private and official documents in both Britain and America. By exploring so deeply the British point of view, Bunker does a wonderful job clarifying the differences between the British and the Americans. Britain was a hierarchical society, dominated by an elite that was confident of its privileges. The colonies, however, had taken the rhetoric of the Glorious Revolution much more to heart and, even in the South, relied on popular authority. The Americans believed themselves to be British citizens, colleagues of the residents of Britain, and they resented what they took to be being treated as conquered subjects.
While Parliament could treat the Scots, the Irish and even residents of England who couldn’t vote as subjects, it did not have the money or manpower to impose such subservience on a wide open country 3,000 miles away. Nor could it break out of its rigid hierarchical mindset to imagine a different kind of confederation, such as it would ultimately forge with Canada and Australia.
Perhaps nothing so much exemplifies these differences as Bunker’s emphasis on the power brokers from the elite in Britain, but his focus on widely disparate and popular developments in America. This contrast puts the differences in excellent perspective, providing a very clear picture of the descent into war.
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