Reviews for 1775 : A Good Year for Revolution

Book News Reviews
Phillips, author of many historical works, continues his investigation of grassroots America in this study of the important events of 1775, the year that the Continental Congress first met and American Patriots began to capture British forts. His new view of the American colonies and how they managed to become the United States emphasizes the year's optimism, military successes, and the role of four colonies as the vanguard of the Revolution: Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, and South Carolina. He examines religious and economic factors of the budding Revolution, describes the Revolution's major political and military arenas as they emerged and developed in 1775, and analyzes the significance of the principal campaigns and confrontations of the year. The book includes b&w historical illustrations and historical maps. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Booklist Reviews 2012 October #2
The year 1776 is often described as the year of this country's birth. That is, of course, technically true. But Phillips, the acclaimed political analyst and historian, convincingly illustrates that it was in 1775 that the critical trends and events unfolded, so that our declared independence was a confirmation of facts already established on the ground: the lower houses of colonial legislatures had aggressively gained control, often driving out royal governors; the rhetoric of the Second Continental Congress became strident, even bellicose; and increasingly, that congress assumed the powers of a government. On a local level, various Patriot Committees enforced boycotts of British-made goods and made the lives of those deemed Tories very uncomfortable. Vast stretches of the Atlantic seaboard were "no go" areas for British troops. Independence was probably in the thoughts, if not on the lips, of many Americans by the end of the year. Phillips writes in a methodical and cooly dispassionate style, so those expecting a tribute to the "glorious cause" should look elsewhere. But he does provide a solid, well-argued, and informative re-examination of our beginnings as a nation-state. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #1
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. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 June #1

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.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 December #1

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

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #3

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.)

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