The loss of America was a stunning and unexpected defeat for the powerful British Empire. Common wisdom has held that incompetent military commanders and political leaders in Britain were to blame.
Historian Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy offers a different explanation in a discussion of his book The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Weaving together the personal stories of 10 men who directed the British prosecution of the war - among them King George III, Prime Minister Lord North, and military leaders such as General Burgoyne and the Earl of Sandwich -- O'Shaughnessy dispels the incompetence myth.
For the most part British troops were led ably and even brilliantly. Victories were frequent; the British conquered every major American city at some point during the Revolutionary War.
Yet roiling political complexities at home, combined with the fervency of the fighting Americans, proved fatal to the British war effort. As O'Shaughnessy notes, the British rebounded from the loss of their American colonies with major victories against the French and Spanish in subsequent years, thereby keeping intact what remained of the British Empire in North America and laying the groundwork for future expansion in Africa and Asia.
O'Shaughnessy is the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. Among his books are An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean and The Old World, New World: America and Europe in the Age of Jefferson.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.