Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for 1775 : a good year for revolution
1775 : a good year for revolution
Other title(s):
Good year for revolution

Seventeen seventy-five

Publication Information:
New York : Viking, ©2012.
Physical Description:
xxvi, 628 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
The spirit of 1775 -- The Revolution: Provocations, Motivations, and Alignments. Liberty's vanguard ; Religion, ethnicity, and revolutionary loyalty ; A revolution for economic self-determination ; Urban radicalism and the tide of revolution ; Challenge from the backcountry ; The ideologies of revolution. -- 1775: The Battlegrounds. Fortress New England? ; Declaring economic war ; Five roads to Canada ; The global munitions struggle, 1774-1776 ; The supply war at sea ; The first British southern strategy, 1775-1776 ; Is Falmouth burning? ; Red, white, and black ; Divided national opinion and Britain's need to hire mercenaries ; The Chesapeake: America's vulnerable estuary ; The American Revolution as a civil war ; The Declaration of Independence : a stitch in time? -- Consequences and Ramifications. The Battle of Boston: a great American victory ; Canada: defeat or victory? ; Lord Dunmore's second war ; Whaleboats, row galleys, schooners, and submarines: the small-ship origins of the U.S. Navy ; Europe, the Bourbon Compact, and the American Revolution ; The southern expedition of 1775 and the limitations of British power ; 1775: a good year for revolution.
What if the year that has long been commemorated as America's defining moment was in fact, misleading? In this book the author, a historian punctures the myth that 1776 was the watershed year of the American Revolution. 1775 was the year in which Patriots captured British forts and fought battles from the Canadian border to the Carolinas, obtained the needed gunpowder, and orchestrated the critical months of nation building in the backrooms of a secrecy-shrouded Congress. He suggests that the great events and confrontations of 1775 such as Congress's belligerent economic ultimatums to Britain, New England's 'rage militaire, ' the exodus of British troops and expulsion of royal governors up and down the seaboard, the new provincial congresses and hundreds of local committees that quickly reconstituted local authority in Patriot hands, were the events that delivered a sweeping Patriot control of territory and local government that Britain was never able to overcome. Here the author surveys the political climate, economic structures, and military preparations, as well as the roles of ethnicity, religion, and class to demonstrate how they had a huge effect on how the country shaped itself. This work attempts to revolutionize the understanding of America's origins.


Call Number
973.3 Phillips
973.3 Phillips 2012

On Order



The contrarian historian and analyst upends the conventional reading of the American Revolution

In 1775 , iconoclastic historian and bestselling author Kevin Phillips punctures the myth that 1776 was the watershed year of the American Revolution. He suggests that the great events and confrontations of 1775--Congress's belligerent economic ultimatums to Britain, New England's rage militaire , the exodus of British troops and expulsion of royal governors up and down the seaboard, and the new provincial congresses and hundreds of local  committees that quickly reconstituted local authority in Patriot hands­--achieved a  sweeping Patriot control of territory and local government that Britain was never able to overcome.  These each added to the Revolution's essential momentum so when the British finally attacked in great strength the following year, they could not regain the control they had lost in 1775.

Analyzing the political climate, economic structures, and military preparations, as well as the roles of ethnicity, religion, and class, Phillips tackles the eighteenth century with the same skill and insights he has shown in analyzing contemporary politics and economics.  The result is a dramatic narrative brimming with original insights. 1775 revolutionizes our understanding of America's origins.

Author Notes

Kevin Price Phillips (born November 30, 1940) has been a political commentator for more than thirty years. He was educated at the Bronx High School of Science, Colgate University, the University of Edinburgh and Harvard Law School. Phillips worked on Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968 and in the White House after the election.

His books include: Post-Conservative America (1982), The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath (1990), Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans, and the Decline of Middle Class Prosperity (1993), Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (2002), Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (2007), and 1775: A Good Year for Revolution (2012).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

The year 1776 is overrated, writes political commentator-turned-historian Phillips (The Cousins' Wars), who makes a convincing case in this long, detailed, but entirely enthralling account. The July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence, he states, was merely the last of a series of "practical" declarations-opening ports to non-British ships, the formation of the Continental Congress, a "de facto government"-and was immediately followed by months of discouraging military defeats. Luckily, says Phillips, the die had been cast in 1775, when exasperation over Britain's clumsy attempts to re-exert control over its quasi-independent colonies culminated in a widespread "rage militaire." Militias organized and drilled, royal governors were forced into exile. Besides the 1775 New England battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, dozens of lesser-known clashes and naval skirmishes occurred that year. More important and almost unnoticed by scholars, Phillips writes, the rebels acquired scarce arms and gunpowder through raids, smuggling, and purchases. By December 1775, the British had left or been expelled everywhere except in besieged Boston. Encyclopedic in exploring the political, economic, religious, ethnic, geographic, and military background of the Revolution, this is a richly satisfying, lucid history from the bestselling author. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A noted historian and political commentator claims 1775 as the American Revolution's true beginning. It will probably take more than this deeply researched, meticulously argued, multidimensional history to dislodge 1776 from the popular mind as the inaugural year of our independence, but Phillips (Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, 2008, etc.) makes the persuasive case--as Jefferson insisted long ago--that a de facto independence existed well before the Declaration of Independence. It wasn't merely a matter of military skirmishes, raids, expeditions and battles that bloodied the year, but also of campaigns opened on other, critical fronts: the ousting of numerous royal governors and lesser officials from office; the takeover of local militias and the establishment of committees, associations and congresses to take up the business of self-government; the desperate scramble for gunpowder and munitions to prosecute the war; and the courting of European powers happy to see Britain weakened. In all these fights during 1775, the colonists made crucial advances, both material and psychological, from which the plodding British never quite recovered. Highlighting, especially, developments in the "vanguard" colonies of Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and South Carolina, where the concentration of wealth, population and leadership accounted for an outsized influence, Phillips explores the ethnic, religious, demographic, political and economic roots of the revolution. He examines the differing class interests (including those of slaves and Native Americans), regional preoccupations and various ideologies, sometimes clashing, sometimes aligning, that contributed to the revolutionary fervor and reminds us how much sorting out was necessary to prepare the national mind for the new order that the Declaration merely ratified. Casual readers may find Phillips' treatment a bit daunting, but serious history students will revel in the overwhelming detail he marshals to make his convincing argument. Impressively authoritative.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

The year 1776 is often described as the year of this country's birth. That is, of course, technically true. But Phillips, the acclaimed political analyst and historian, convincingly illustrates that it was in 1775 that the critical trends and events unfolded, so that our declared independence was a confirmation of facts already established on the ground: the lower houses of colonial legislatures had aggressively gained control, often driving out royal governors; the rhetoric of the Second Continental Congress became strident, even bellicose; and increasingly, that congress assumed the powers of a government. On a local level, various Patriot Committees enforced boycotts of British-made goods and made the lives of those deemed Tories very uncomfortable. Vast stretches of the Atlantic seaboard were no go areas for British troops. Independence was probably in the thoughts, if not on the lips, of many Americans by the end of the year. Phillips writes in a methodical and cooly dispassionate style, so those expecting a tribute to the glorious cause should look elsewhere. But he does provide a solid, well-argued, and informative re-examination of our beginnings as a nation-state.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

As he explains in his new book's preface, he tends to move back to the past when disenchanted with the politics of the present. His most recent disenchantment set in about four years ago, leading to "a decision to write about a United States taking shape rather than one losing headway." The result is "1775: A Good Year for Revolution," which argues that the determining events of the American Revolution occurred a year earlier than most people realize. In effect, the lightning struck several months before American independence was officially declared in July of 1776, which was really just a thunderous epilogue. This is not as eccentric an interpretation as it sounds. You could make a case that New England was thoroughly committed to rebellion after the passage of the Coercive Acts in 1774. And if you think about it, the war actually started in the spring of 1775 at Lexington and Concord, followed by Bunker Hill in June, over a year before Jefferson wrote his justifiably famous words. Phillips deploys his formidable energies to elaborate the argument like a lawyer defending his client. In 1775, royal governors up and down the seaboard were forced to flee or risk arrest, and control over state and local governments was assumed by provisional committees of safety dedicated to independence. Most important, a defiant mentality congealed in 1775, called rage militaire, that described American independence as both inevitable and providential. Phillips acknowledges that this mentality was illusory and irrational, as the vastly superior British Army and Navy were soon to expose. But 1775 was the year when American colonists embraced the conviction that their cause - referred to as the Cause - had the winds of history at its back, and could not be defeated. And it was in the summer of 1775 that George III decided to crush the incipient American rebellion with a huge invasion force comprising British regulars and Hessian mercenaries, perhaps the most misguided decision in the history of British statecraft. Six months before the American colonists declared their own independence, George III had declared his independence from them. All this is laid out in the first 100 pages of the book, but there are 500 more pages to go. One can detect traces of Phillips's journalistic work here, when he was dissecting voting patterns in key counties to explain the impact of ethnic and religious groups on an election. His sweeping assessment, akin to the red and blue patterns on network news screens during presidential campaigns, paints a picture of patriot control of the countryside several months before independence was declared. Phillips argues persuasively that American insurgents dominated local institutions, and that militia units became a roving police force imposing the revolutionary agenda, sometimes in violent ways that verged on terrorism. From the beginning of the war then, the British Army faced the same kind of intractable problem encountered by the American Army in Vietnam. It could win most of the battles, but once British troops moved on, political control reverted to the rebels. The battle for hearts and minds had already been lost. But Phillips is, both literally and figuratively, all over the map in these middle and later chapters, sallying forth into the scholarship on urban radicals, competing revolutionary ideologies, expeditions to Canada, the war at sea, American Indian alliances, the military vulnerability of Chesapeake Bay, the Boston Siege, to name just a few of his thematic probes. Those readers who feel lost on this journey can thank Jeffrey L. Ward for 14 absolutely gorgeous maps to get their geographic bearings. Along the way, Phillips is forced to extend his story line into the spring and summer of 1776 in order to accommodate the messy manner in which history happened. For example, what he calls "Liberty's Vanguard" were the four colonies - Virginia, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Connecticut - that led the rebellion. But that meant there were nine colonies, most conspicuously New York and Pennsylvania, that followed, and they were not ready to take the plunge in 1775. Although it would dilute the dramatic purity of his argument about the sovereignty of 1775, the peak moment straddles the calendar. The American Revolution became inevitable in the last half of 1775 and the first half of 1776. But that does not mean victory was assured. There were several occasions over the ensuing years of the war when the Continental Army came perilously close to going out of existence, most memorably at Valley Forge in 1777. We can never know for sure how those hearts and minds in the countryside would have responded to such a catastrophe. The strategic chemistry was more fluid and volatile after 1775 than Phillips is prepared to acknowledge. Perseverance and stamina in the dog days of the war counted just as much as glorious presumptions at the start, if not more so. Although Phillips is fully aware of the regional, sectional and ethnic divisions within prerevolutionary America - indeed in one chapter making the case that the American Revolution was also a civil war - he also claims that an embryonic American nation congealed in 1775. By his own evidence, however, loyalties and allegiances remained local or regional at best. The states were prepared to form a provisional and temporary union as a way to win the war. After that, they intended to go their separate directions, which in fact is what they did. Even in 1787, the phrase "We the people of the United States" was a fond hope rather than a political or social reality. One does not have to accept Phillips's claim about the seminal significance of 1775 as the decisive year to appreciate his larger achievement This is a feisty, fearless, edgy book, blissfully bereft of academic jargon, propelled by the energy of an author with the bit in his teeth. My earlier complaint about the rambling character of the middle chapters could be upended to argue that Phillips is attempting to occupy the multiple arenas - legislatures, churches, militia units, urban taverns, backwoods firesides, coastal flotillas, munitions depots - where resistance to British authority became the American Revolution. In that sense, the story he tells is not neat and orderly because making a revolution is, almost by definition, a dizzy experience that no one at the time fully comprehends. Phillips's major accomplishment is to recover that sense of excitement, confusion and improvisation as, almost providentially, the perfect storm formed. Joseph J. Ellis's latest book, "Revolutionary Summer," will be published next spring.

Library Journal Review

Noted political analyst Phillips (Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism) objects to the oversimplifications concerning the Revolutionary War made by professional historians and laity who mischaracterize its spirit and causes. With painstaking detail and extensive documentation, he convincingly demonstrates that rebelliousness, resentment, and confrontation had been increasing for decades before 1776; colonials had been organizing, networking, arming, and training since 1774; and Lexington-Concord was no surprise. He argues that 1775, not 1776 (misused shorthand for the birth of independence), is the pivotal year for the clash. Phillips focuses on religious and ethnic animosities, commercial frustrations, emerging American nationalism and expansionism, political ideology, and anger over deliberate, threatening English restrictions as the complex causes for war. As he did in The Cousins' Wars (1999), he particularly emphasizes the role of religion in the conflict, arguing that Calvinism provided impetus to insurgency, and continues his characterization of the Revolution as a civil war. -VERDICT Phillips relies primarily on numerous secondary sources, analyzing over 200 years of the historiography of the Revolution to present the complete picture. The exhaustive detail will lose some casual readers, but the steadfast popular or academic Revolutionary-era enthusiast will be enlightened.-Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.