These are a number of book reviews which will help you find books emphasizing or discussing some aspect of American, Colonial America, and English history. These are book reviews not only of “history” books, but also of good historical fiction, biographies, and even sometimes a travel book focused on sites of American, Colonial, or English history.
Our editor has read the books he reviews, and gets a little wordy in talking about them, but excuse his enthusiasm — He wants to share good books with you. His personal favorite right now is the one now at the end of this list: The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, by one of America’s best historians.
The Nobel Revolt
by John Adamson
The Nobel Revolt traces the small group of noblemen who risked their lives and fortunes to challenge Charles I’s attempt to refashion his three kingdoms into an authoritarian monarchy. These dozen aristocrats exploited a contemporary rebellion against Charles’s rule in Scotland to create an entirely new political order in England. Using a mass of newly discovered evidence, the narrative shows us how these nobles moved the kingdom into an essentially republican state in which executive power was monopolized by a small group of noblemen, with the king being little more than a figurehead of the government. This group of nobles achieved their object in 1641, the year known in Continental Europe as the “year of wonders.” That was the year the English people publically tried and executed the king’s greatest minister; stripped the King of most of his sources of revenue; and governmental power transferred to a new ‘godly’ noble-dominated cartel. It was also the year of a new and often violent phase of reformation in the English Church, moving, often with violence, from the Established Church of England and anything Catholic toward the stricter forms of Protestantism. E.g., The parish church of the Buckland-Ripers parish which William Bucklin had left less than a dozen years before still today bears the marks of the violent removal or defacing by Cromwell’s forces in “cleansing Catholic” decorations loved by the Church of England that Charles I had fashioned.
I would argue that THE NOBLE REVOLT, by John Adamson, offers the most compact, readable, and detailed discussion of the origins of the English Civil War. Buy at Amazon
In a Defiant Stance : The Conditions of law in Massachusetts Bay…and the coming of the American Revolution
by John Phillip Reid
John Reid has both law and history degrees, which he uses to great effect in his historical narrative of the causes of the American Revolution. He examines the legal weapons the Americans used, and why the British military force could not be used to put down the rebellion. It’s invigorating for the mind to read this analysis. (And you mentally cheer for the Americans as they use their legal plots.)
Reid invites you to think about the facts that — not one American ever was successfully tried for treason or violence against English military and tax officials; but the American courts regularly arrested and successfully prosecuted British naval officers for enforcing the revenue laws and seizing merchandise the American smuggled. Courts and juries could be counted on to find the English military and the tax collectors guilty of criminal seizures and civil wrongs, to enter money judgment against them, and to put the British commanders in jail as debtors! The British were powerless to avoid their punishments – because it was English law that was being used against them. (This book has special appeal for lawyers, who will fully appreciate what the judges and lawyers successfully conspired to accomplish.) Buy at Amazon
Constitutional History of the American Revolution
by John Phillip Reid
This is soft cover, one volume, abridgement of John Reid’s original, magnificent, four-volumes on the American Revolution. This edition narrates how significant constitutional disputes were in starting the American Revolution. Excerpts from two reviews are accurate, to wit:
“….students of the Revolution have moved too quickly from constitutional arguments to economic interests, ideology, and social psychology. Reid’s Constitutional History is essential reading for any serious student of the American Revolution” -Peter S. Onuf, Journal of Am. Hist..
“Reid’s argument is convincing, historians need to rethink issues and problems of economics, social stress, and political nationalism and place constitutionalism . . . back at the top of the list of causes of the Revolution.” – Howard A. Ohline, Pennsylvania Magazine of Hist.& Bio.
Reid’s distinctive analysis discusses the irreconcilable nature of this conflict — irreconcilable because the dynamics of constitutional law prevented a solution that would have permitted the colonies to remain part of the dominions of George III. Buy at Amazon
A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony
by John Demos
Details of everyday colonial life — Did you know that many homes had only one chair but might have large wardrobes of clothes? Did you know that women of New England probably had more status and rights than those in England? Do not let the title of the book fool you–this book embraces the Massachusetts Bay Colony and portions of what we now know as Rhode Island. For example, author John Demos refers to the wedding of Joseph Bucklin and Deborah Allen and describes what the families did. (Demos feels the Bucklins “apparently were typical” of the day.) Buy at Amazon
The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution
by Alfred F. Young
Examine the life of an ordinary American who became involved with the Boston Tea Party I think Alfred Young is one of the great historians of American history. This book offers his profound discussion on the American Revolution, and particularly the Boston Tea Party. Buy at Amazon