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Hardcover A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution Book

ISBN: 0812925750

ISBN13: 9780812925753

A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution

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From one of the great political journalists of our time comes a boldly argued reinterpretation of the central event in our collective past--a book that portrays the American Revolution not as a clash... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Grounded Perspective

The American Revolution: a predetermined conclusion for the British. Hmmm... now there's a thought. Incredible insight. Draper writes, "But it was characteristic of British polemicists that they insisted on reading more into colonial arguments than was actually there, because they were primed to expect the colonies to separate one day" (pg. 309). Read this book, and view the conflict from the British perspective of inevitability.


In my study of revolutions I have always been interested in two basic questions- what were the ideas swirling around prior to the revolution that brought people to see the need for revolution and the related question of how those ideas played out in the struggle for power. I recently reviewed Professor Gordon Wood's Radicalism in the American Revolution that posed the first of this question, that is the influence of ideas about the nature of individual freedom, about the creation of the frame of government and about who should govern. In the present review of Theodore Draper's book this second question is dealt with at length. Although Mr. Draper has many insightful thoughts about the duration and intensity of that struggle against the mother country England one must recognize that this is not one of his major historical works. Draper's major historical work, for which he will be well remembered, lies elsewhere. (In his definitive two-volume study of the Stalinization of the American Communist Party and on Iran/Contra.) That said, as mentioned above one of the most interesting of Mr. Draper's insights is the rather long period of struggle by elements in the individual colonial governments against the rule (or better, rules since they were not uniformly applied) imposed by England. Previous study had led me to assume that these struggles had a relatively recent origin only a few decades prior to the revolution. What is apparent is that a `cold' dual power situation existed between England and some of the administrations in the colonies for a fairly long time before `hot' dual power occurred with the creation of the Continental Congress and the formation of militias in 1774. The distance from the mother country and the relatively looseness of the ties between colony and metropolis accounts for this tension. Part also came from a need to deal with political, social and economic questions faster than edicts from England would permit and part by the structure of many of the colonial governments that acted to check the imperial power by controlling the purse strings or the local power elite. An overriding question that hovers over Mr. Draper's theme is whether a revolution in America was necessary (or wise) given the relatively narrow issues that pulled the parties apart for most of the pre-revolutionary period. His answer is that the whole long pre-history of struggle between indigenous elements of colonial society and the haughtiness of officialdom under imperial rule dictated the need for revolution. To this reviewer's mind, while he agrees with Mr. Draper's conclusion, this is a rather fruitless question. Revolutions occur for whatever reasons because the parties (or at least one of the parties) see no other way out. Post-hoc analysis, while interesting, does not explain why this occurs and why post-hoc knowledge does not make one wiser about how to avoid revolution, especially on the part of the ruling classes. Mr. Draper has, nevertheless,

An excellent examination of history unfolding

This is an example of history at its best, in my eyes. Too often, people are tempted to view an event in a vacuum, without examining the causes of the event in question. Beyond that, they more frequently fail to place the event in context with the currents of history.Certainly nobody can accuse Draper of such a thing. The book begins as the 7-Years War is coming to an end, and controversy rages in Great Britain as to what territories the British are going to claim from France as spoils. This is hardly unusual; conventional history holds that the American Revolution was a direct result of the 7-years War, and efforts by the British government to recoup some of the massive expenditures made during the war. Draper could simply have left it at that, and shown how relations between Britain and the colonies deteriorated over the next decade until the colonist finally revolted.However, Draper correctly sees that both the controversies of the 1760's and the ultimate revolution in the 1770's are merely symptons of a larger and more severe malady that plagued the British imperial system for nearly a century prior to the American Revolution, namely how the colonies, which were growing more populous and prosperous with each generation, could remain subject to Great Britain. As the colonies grew stronger, how could they be expected to follow dictates of a country that was no longer superior to them in power? He examines the history, as it unfolds from generation to generation, of the balance of power between Britain and its colonies.Draper does an excellent job of this. To me, this is history at its most magnificent, as the reader sees the forces of history moving through time, with each event or trend influencing successive events and trends. The examination of the writings and speeches of various leaders and thinkers show that it was apparent that a power struggle between Britain and the colonies, in one form or another, was inevitable. Many people on both sides of the Atlantic could see this even in the late 17th century.Draper also examines how some people attempted, ultimately without success, to avoid the inevitable, through a variety of schemes and proposals. People could see what ultimately would be the result, but tried nonetheless to reach an arrangement that would keep the colonies from breaking away from the mother country. The currents of history proved to be too strong, however, and events moved along towards their inevitable conclusion.Also fascinating was to see the evolution of the colonists' perception of themselves and how they related to Britain. At the beginning of the 1760's, there was hardly a colonist that could conceive (or admit the truth to himself) of outright independence from Britain. With each succeeding event, the colonists' thinking evolves, and once loyal subjects ultimately become revolutionaries. By contrast, some individuals such as John Dickinson, begin ahead of the revolutionary curve, but because their po

The "real" causes of the American Revolution

I liked this book. It was an in-depth work of the economics and politics of the pre-revolutionary period in America. It wiped away the ideals that we all learned in third grade and it made it real. Of course money was behind the war...isn't it always? But it's something that's not said, out of "respect" to our founding fathers.The book wasn't always the easiest read...there were many excerpts that were written in Old English. But it was very interesting and compelling. It's not your everyday elementary school book on history. I appreciated that.

An In-depth Look at the Causes of the American Revolution

Theodore Draper has taken a new perspective on the American Revolution that I find refreshing. Throughout my american history classes I was force fed the fact that the war was caused by a difference of opinion. That is, the Sons of Liberty and other patriotic organizations were starving for freedom under opressive British rule. In _A_Struggle_for_Power_, Draper relates that the war was faught because of "the power the British wished to exercise over the Americans and the power the Americans wished to exercise over themselves." Scores of primary sources are quoted, and the information is very developed. It reads well, but the information is not as accesible as _The_Long_Fuse_ by Don Cook. I reccommend both to anyone interested in the political and social causes of the war. If you are looking for the military aspects of the war, pick up a book by Ketchum (excellent).
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