Feb 08, 13
Read from January 09 to March 07, 2012
A good, solid overview of the American Revolution, but unlike the other books I've read in the Oxford History of the United States, not one I would recommend as an introductory text. Middlekauf seems to assume a prior knowledge about much of the personalities and events of the Revolution, and his narrative can be difficult to follow if you're not already familiar (sometimes very familiar) with the story of American Independence.
His choice of focus was at times curious as well: great detail is provided concerning the inner machinations of Parliamentary politics (something I knew little about, and was happy to explore), and yet the discussion of American politics is sometimes skimpy at best. There is no mention of the 1765 Currency Act, the Quebec Act is referred to only as part of the Intolerable Acts and is otherwise left unexplained, and Shays's Rebellion is brushed by in a few measly paragraphs with no substantial discussion of the public reaction to the uprising. The author seemed to write as though he were only repeating a story we've all heard a number of times before and was rushing to be done with the important bits "everybody knows." While this may be true for some history buffs, the purpose of the Oxford History is to provide a broad narrative accessible to the lay reader. James McPherson's masterpiece Battle Cry of Freedom provides a helpful comparison: one need know little about the Civil War to fully engage the scholarship he offers.
For the reader already familiar with the Revolution however, Middlekauf's book is a helpful overview to refresh your memory and perhaps explore some hidden corners of the Revolution not often discussed (e.g. the British politics mentioned above). Such readers will likely be not so much dismayed but rather baffled at the author's omissions and narrative elisions.
I should mention that I read the original edition published way back in 1982; since then a revised and expanded edition appeared in 2005, and perhaps these deficiencies are therein corrected.