Cover image for Turning the world upside down : the War of American Independence and the problem of empire
Turning the world upside down : the War of American Independence and the problem of empire
York, Neil Longley.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 193 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E210 .Y67 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



York illustrates how Revolutionary Americans founded an empire as well as a nation, and how they saw the two as inseparable. While they had rejected Britain and denounced power politics, they would engage in realpolitik and mimic Britain as they built their empire of liberty. England had become Great Britain as an imperial nation, and Britons believed that their empire promised much to all fortunate enough to be part of it. Colonial Americans shared that belief and sense of pride. But as clashing interests and changing identities put them at odds with the prevailing view in London, dissident colonists displaced Anglo-American exceptionalism with their own sense of place and purpose, an American vision of manifest destiny.

Revolutionary Americans wanted to believe that creating a new nation meant that they had left behind the old problems of empire. What they discovered was that the basic problems of empire unavoidably came with them into the new union. They too found it difficult to build a union in the midst of rival interests and competing ideologies. Ironically, they learned that they could only succeed by aping the balance of power politics used by Britain that they had only recently decried.

Author Notes

Neil Longley York is Professor of History and History Department Chair at Brigham Young University. He also serves as Karl G. Maeser Professor of General Education.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This is less a narrative history than an exploration of the concept of empire in the 18th-century Anglo-American world. York (Brigham Young Univ.) finds the meaning of empire "rather vague," and "problematical and potentially controversial." He opens with a description of how the British Empire evolved without rational guidance or a theoretical underpinning, and closes with speculation about the rise of a new American empire. In between, York discusses a number of interesting topics but does not tie some of these (e.g., his assessment of the Continental Navy) to the theme of empire, thus making them appear to be digressions. In other cases, readers will want more detail: e.g., when York states that Thomas Gage did not want to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock in order to avoid "the risk of creating political martyrs," the author neither cites a source for this, nor notes that since the Massachusetts Provincial Congress had recently adjourned, Gage might not have known where the two men were, or that Paul Revere relayed rumors to both men that Gage was sending forces to arrest them. These cavils aside, this is a thought-provoking work that makes some interesting points but fails to pull them all together. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above, with guidance. J. C. Bradford Texas A&M University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
1 Imperial Competition and the Rise of British Americap. 1
Outposts of Empirep. 8
Military Sideshowsp. 17
Britian Triumphantp. 26
2 Revolt Without Revolutionp. 39
Containmentp. 41
Mortgages, Financial and Psychologicalp. 48
Shadow Governmentsp. 60
Shooting Warp. 66
3 Revolution Embraced, Independence Declaredp. 77
Cutting Tiesp. 81
Armies and Naviesp. 92
To and Frop. 99
4 The War as Great Power Conflictp. 111
Clandestine Aidp. 114
Escalationp. 122
Letting Gop. 131
5 New Nation, New Empirep. 149
By Landp. 153
By Seap. 165
Boundlessp. 173
Suggested Readingp. 185
Indexp. 187