Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Five best books on anti-revolutionary British loyalists

Maya Jasanoff teaches history at Harvard University and is the author of Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (2011).

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books on anti-revolutionary British loyalists.

One title on her list:
The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson
by Bernard Bailyn (1974)

Bernard Bailyn had already published his seminal "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution" (1967) when he turned his attention to the "losers," hoping to understand "why any sensible, well-informed, right-minded American with a modicum of imagination and common sense could possibly have opposed the Revolution." The result is an elegant, penetrating profile of Thomas Hutchinson, royal governor of Massachusetts. "It is hard to imagine anyone less disposed by background or heritage to betray his countrymen," writes Bailyn. Yet as tensions escalated between Britain and the colonies, the "rational, circumspect and cool" Hutchinson consistently upheld British sovereignty—only to see his "high hopes and eager expectations" descend into "disillusionment, a search for understanding, bewilderment, and finally despair." The governor's house was savagely vandalized in the Stamp Act riots of 1765; he was vilified, burned in effigy and eventually driven into exile. He died in England in 1780, feeling betrayed by both sides in a war he had fervently sought to avoid.
Read about the other books on Jasanoff's list.

The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson also appears among Jay Winik's five best portraits of the era of America's founding.

--Marshal Zeringue