Journal of the American Revolution, the popular online magazine and annual book, today announced its winner and runners-up for the 2015 Book of the Year Award.
The annual award goes to the non-fiction volume that best mirrors the journal’s mission: to deliver passionate, creative and smart content that makes American Revolution history accessible to a broad audience. The award honors meticulous, ideally ground-breaking research combined with a well-crafted narrative that appeals to scholars and non-academic readers alike.
This year’s winner is Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution by Kathleen DuVal (Random House, 2015). DuVal expands the geographic boundaries of the traditional narrative outward to include the Gulf Coast region, with its diverse populations: loyal British colonists and rebellious British colonists; Spanish colonists; Acadian refugees; Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw native nations, and factions within each; Africans enslaved under British and under Spanish rule. This sweeping cast produced complex webs of allegiances that DuVal deftly uncovers. From the Journal of the American Revolution review:
Increasingly, historians are interpreting the American Revolution from two wider perspectives. First, it was a global war fought on five continents with major battles outside of the thirteen colonies critical to the war’s outcome. Second, there is a fresh emphasis on conveying individual participants’ stories and describing the war’s differential impact on their lives. Kathleen DuVal’s new book Independence Lost weaves these two perspectives into a compelling narrative about the American War for Independence in the Gulf Coast region…
DuVal brings to life the motivations and fears of the people living in this region. She describes the conflict through the eyes of selected participants, each having a different stake in the conflict’s outcome… DuVal argues that ancestry, economics and the prospect of personal freedom determined the loyalties of the region’s populous… DuVal concludes that only a small sliver of Gulf Coast residents were better off after the war than before. Most residents were thrust into a war that they did not seek and had their lives upended without any ensuing benefits. By telling the story through the stories of eight participants, DuVal demonstrates that the ideals of the American Revolution were not instantaneously achieved.
This year’s honorable mentions expand the narrative of the American Revolution temporally, one focusing on the sixteen months preceding the Lexington and Concord, the other on the two years following Yorktown.
The Spirit of ’74: How the American Revolution Began by Ray Raphael and Marie Raphael (New Press, 2015), chronicles the overthrow of British authority throughout the Massachusetts countryside the year before Lexington and Concord and the insurgents’ military preparations to defend that revolution during the winter of 1774-75. From the Journal of the American Revolution review:
Most people understand that the American Revolution began in Massachusetts. What they may not know is that the revolution actually began well over a year before the gunfire at Lexington and Concord… A grassroots populist tidal wave of opposition arose determined not to allow their freedoms be stripped away… This revolution in Massachusetts was not brought about by the well-known “names” associated with the revolutionary period but rather by little known locals supported by many thousands of ordinary people…
In a very real sense what became the American Revolution joined the revolution that had already taken place in Massachusetts in 1774. The Raphaels tell this dramatic story in a fascinating and very readable manner. Even knowing that the events of April 19th are just over the horizon the unfolding of the tale makes for exciting reading… This book thoroughly explains what took place in Massachusetts between the Boston Tea Party and Lexington/Concord. Without this background of revolution the march to Concord doesn’t make sense. The Spirit of ’74 ties it all together.
After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence by Don Glickstein (Westholme, 2015), is an important corrective to the myopic view that the war was fought only on American soil and had a tidy, storybook climax. It details the land and naval conflicts that continued on several fronts: the American South and West, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and even India. From the Journal of the American Revolution review:
Key tenets of America’s founding ethos are that rugged, independent minded farmers and tradesmen rose up in righteous rebellion to throw off the shackles of British tyranny and they succeeded by winning the last battle of the Revolution at Yorktown. Don Glickstein in his new book After Yorktown exposes both of these assertions as overly simplistic and misleading. He provides cogent analysis and extensive research to support the thesis that considerable fighting occurred in the two years after Yorktown and that the American rebels were critically aided by the European powers’ wider conflict fought on four other continents…
The book is fast paced and concisely written, with forty-three short chapters each describing the post Yorktown conflict in a different military theater or region of the world… The book demonstrates that two years of “bloody, messy” combat occurred after Yorktown not only in North America but also throughout the world. American independence would not have occurred without the British having to defend its worldwide colonies and the final peace agreements could not be concluded without settling the combatants’ global territorial ambitions.
The Journal of the American Revolution takes care to review significant contributions to field. Other valuable works for 2015 can be accessed through the Book Review page. For more information about the Journal of the American Revolution Book of the Year Award, please visit http://allthingsliberty.com/bookawards/. In 2014, the award went to Dangerous Guests by Ken Miller.