J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, February 08, 2013

New Reading from Williamsburg

The book reviews from the January 2013 issue of the William & Mary Quarterly are now online, readable in P.D.F. form through this webpage. Those reviews include Edward G. Gray’s roundup of three recent books on Loyalism headlined “Liberty’s Losers” because, as Gray points out, British society didn’t actually suffer that much damage from the war:

Less than a decade after the conclusive battle at Yorktown, ordinary Britons could point to few lingering consequences of the war. Americans who had traveled to London for culture and knowledge before the war were coming again. Prewar trading patterns had been more or less restored. Dynastic tensions with France and Spain remained largely unchanged; they neither improved nor worsened, although in 1790 they did nearly erupt into a war over the remote Nootka Sound. In Ireland little changed as a result of the war, despite the seemingly bold 1782 repeal of Poyning’s Law, granting the Irish Parliament a measure of legislative independence. Whatever fears Britons had about the spread of American-style revolution on their side of the Atlantic—and those fears appear to have been minimal—quickly dissipated. Before the appearance of the second part of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in 1792, republicanism showed no real sign of departing from its moderate Whig roots. Similarly, aside from a very brief Whig ascendency in 1782 and 1783, the overall cast of British politics changed very little as a result of the war. The opposition remained more or less as it had been before the war, and the government of William Pitt the Younger essentially sustained the constitutional order that had prevailed before and during the war.
In contrast, the Loyalists who left the area that became the new U.S. of A.—the largest number of war refugees created by any of the West’s late-eighteenth-century wars—had to rebuild their lives in new homes. But that didn’t mean they shared the same experience, outlook, or values. Gray writes of the “frustratingly elusive quality of loyalism,” and concludes that much of the best material in the books he reviews focuses on particular communities.

Also online now are articles from the latest issue of the Colonial Williamsburg Journal, including items on George Washington’s wealth, George Wythe’s murder, and archeology at Jamestown.

Benjamin Carp’s essay “Separated by a Common History” considers how American authors came to emphasize differences between the North and South that really didn’t play a big role in the colonial and Revolutionary periods. Ben gets off this line:
Colonial American leaders primarily looked in four directions: eastward for goods, westward for land, upward for God, and down their noses at everyone else.
I’m also represented in this issue of the Journal. On page 9, the Correction says: “Two readers wrote that the magazine misspelled the first name of the father of gerrymandering…” I’m one of those two. So proud.

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