Independence: The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution, by Thomas P. Slaughter *83 (Hill and Wang)
The Author: Slaughter *83 is a professor of history at the University of Rochester and the editor of Reviews in American History. His books, which include Exploring Lewis and Clark and The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition, have won the National Historical Society Book Prize and the American Revolution Round Table Award.
The Book: Independence goes back to the founding of the colonies to tell the 150-year story of a transformation in American attitudes that culminated in the revolutionary events of the 1770s. Slaughter begins with an examination of the many conflicts and tensions that permeated colonial American life. In particular, he explores the contradiction between the mindset of the American colonists, who saw themselves as independent, self-sufficient subjects, and the British, who viewed the colonists as rebellious troublemakers. As it detangles a web of sectional tension, religious difference, and economic dispute, Independence shows how these two contrary characterizations grew to mean the same thing – in Slaughter’s words, “how independence became revolutionary.”
Opening Lines: “‘What do we mean by the Revolution?’ John Adams asked Thomas Jefferson rhetorically, after the two men had retired from public life. ‘The war? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people…’”
Review: “Only bold historians will attempt one-volume histories of the American Revolution’s origins; Slaughter brings his off brilliantly. Rarely, if ever, has this history been told with such graceful readability, freshness, and clarity…[A]s a political, event-filled history of its subject, this masterful work is unsurpassed,” writes Publishers Weekly.