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A Few Bloody Noses: The Realities and Mythologies of the American Revolution [Hardcover]

By Robert Harvey (Author)
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Item description for A Few Bloody Noses: The Realities and Mythologies of the American Revolution by Robert Harvey...

Robert Harvey, whose most recent book "Liberators" was brilliantly reviewed on both sides of the ocean, challenges conventional views of the American Revolution in almost every aspect--why it happened, who was winning and when, the characters of the principal protagonists, and the role of Native Americans and slaves.

Publishers Description
We meant well to the Americans-just to punish them with a few bloody noses, and then to make laws for the happiness of both countries," said George III. The ensuing uprising led to the creation of the United States, the most powerful country in the modern world.
Robert Harvey, whose most recent book Liberators was brilliantly reviewed on both sides of the ocean, challenges conventional views of the American Revolution in almost every aspect-why it happened, who was winning and when, the characters of the principal protagonists, and the role of Native Americans and slaves. In a time when the history of the United States is being reconsidered-when David McCullough's John Adams and Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers top the bestseller lists-Harvey creatively studies this seminal event in the making of the United States. He takes a penetrating look at a war that was both vicious and confused, bloody and protracted, and marred on both sides by incompetence and bad faith. He underscores the effect of the Revolution on the settlers in America, and those at home in Britain-the country that the settlers had left behind, and to which many returned. The result is an extraordinarily fascinating and thoroughly readable account.

Citations And Professional Reviews
A Few Bloody Noses: The Realities and Mythologies of the American Revolution by Robert Harvey has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Kirkus Reviews - 03/15/2002 page 381
  • Publishers Weekly - 04/22/2002 page 58
  • Booklist - 06/01/2002 page 1672

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Overlook Hardcover
Pages   775
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.3" Width: 6.3" Height: 1.65"
Weight:   2.03 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 22, 2002
Publisher   Overlook Hardcover
Age  18
ISBN  1585672734  
ISBN13  9781585672738  

Availability  0 units.

More About Robert Harvey

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Robert Harvey is a former British MP who spent nine years on the foreign staff of "The Economist," where he became assistant editor. He lives in Powys, Wales and London.

Robert Harvey currently resides in London.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > Revolution & Founding > General
3Books > Subjects > History > Historical Study > Revolution
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Mythology > General

Reviews - What do customers think about A Few Bloody Noses: The Realities and Mythologies of the American Revolution?

Important Book -- However, Like A Rattlesnake It is Injurious to Your Health   Dec 13, 2008
How can I defend 5 stars with my title? Well, there is much to learn here as to how foreigners look at us, treat us as stupid little children, claim that everything we know about our own history is false, and from the author's perspective, how the British really do know everything and why we should let them rule the world. Nearly everything is false, slanted, spun, or otherwise fabricated -- but it is important to know because many people believe this nonsense. When you read this book, keep other references handy like Phillips' "The Cousin's Wars", Flood's "Rise And Fight Again", Burrows' "Forgotten Patriots", Middlekauff's "The Glorious Cause", Ferling's "A Leap in the Dark", Marshall's "Washington", Miller's "Origins of the American Revolution" and whatever other references you have.

Why foreigners believe they know everything that is wrong with the United States and find a ready market for their tomes here is beyond me. But they do. First of all, we are not ignorant of the "warts" on the Founding Fathers and do not believe Washington was a military genius. In fact, I know of no American historian who would say that. I vividly remember my first book on the Revolutionary War, Coffin's "The Boys of '76" that I read when I was eight years old. At the time I was thunderstruck at the many defeats suffered by the patriots, actually a majority of the battles, and have never been under illusions concerning the Revolutionary War since. Harvey's "illusions" are rather what he EXPECTS the Americans to believe if they were British and one were talking about British history. A note to Mr. Harvey -- please do not ascribe your shortcomings to us.

It is difficult to know where to begin with this review. One can almost pick out any page at random and argue over the content. George III was not some benign democratic monarch only wishing to inflict "a few bloody noses" on colonial troublemakers and bring the rest into line in the world's best government (see "Forgotten Patriots"). And yes, self-interest played a role in the patriot uprising, but the basic tenent of the idea of freedon is to be able to pursue one's self-interest without interference from government. Somehow the author doesn't understand that. The author brings forth Lee, Conway and Gates as "...all fell from stars to ignominious discredit...". Gee, Lee and Conway made only negative contributions in the war, and Gates was fortunate to have others (most notably Arnold) fight his only victory (Saratoga) for him. They were "stars"? And Knox was an uneven general (see Germantown) rather than the consistent hero the author makes him out to be.

The author's equating of the Revolutionary War with Vietnam betrays his total bankruptcy in understanding either conflict. Vietnam was not an American colony peopled by American colonists, Vietnam did not possess the approximately 2/3rds of its population unwilling to fight (in the Revolutionary War the idea that 1/3 were patriots, 1/3 loyalists and 1/3 neutral is roughly accurate and although many historians argue over the exact percentages, these were the major divisions), and after Tet, the Vietnam War was fought largely against North Vietnamese regulars, not domestic rebels. Nor did the Vietnamese and Americans come from the same racial stock, possess a common language, enjoy the same general Protestant religious base, or even share a common heritage in law. But no matter -- at least not for the author.

The author states that (based on his work) "Virtually every common assumption has to be substantially modified, if not rejected." Unbelievable hubris! The author writes one book on a subject and every common assumption on that war has to be modified or rejected? I wonder what he would say about an American author writing a book on the English Civil War in the 1600s if the American author made such a preposterous statement.

Maybe that means every one of his common assumptions, but let's start with the first and most important: that the United States won its independence from England. There are American historians who would argue that the French intervention was decisive. That probably is true, but it would not have happened had the patriots not defeated Burgoyne and captured his army. Or another that many American historians recognize -- that support in England itself, especially in London, was critical to maintaining the revolution on life support. But in fact, without the patriots' insensitivity to losses and ability to endure adversity, we'd still be in the Commonwealth today -- apparently where the author wants us. Up to one patriot in five was killed, died of wounds, died in captivity or soon after release, or from sickness during the war -- an almost unheard of level of fatalities in war; and surprise, apparently the author knows that. But hang in there, Harvey will tell us that it was England who won the Battle of Bunker Hill (Howe's comments to the contrary), that Lexington and Concord were well organized and efficient ambushes (although there were no British casualties at Lexington), and that the constitutional convention was the ultimate defeat to the patriot cause (now I'm really speechless.)

I would argue with almost every polemical point the author makes, with the added comment that he declined to give sources or refer the reader to where he obtained his inaccurate information. No doubt the author has good reasons for this upon which I do not wish to speculate. He does present a half-way reasonable bibliography, but I doubt that he read any of them. A Google search would do as well.

So read this book and then put it on the shelf with a product warning label that it is a prime example of the revisionist tripe being propounded about the US and its history by foreigners today -- or better yet, simply "Reading This is Hazardous to Your Health."
Hallucinogenic Revisionist History  Jun 27, 2006
Mr. Harvey obviously speaks for those British subjects who still havn't come to terms with the fact that patriotic Americans wanted to get rid of the "Little Dinglybury Nation" that attempted to keep them surpressed. Mr. Harvey is in sorts, a very sore loser. It is amazing that after 230 years, some British commoner would still harbor ill feelings towards the men and women who gave the world the best hope of freedom and liberty that has ever exisited. This book is only good for people in Britain who want to have a nice, happy feel good day.
Mr. Harvey has many wild and undocumented claims, and they are far to many for me to waste my time on. But deep into the book I could not "stand" the non-factual and non-truthful writings of the book, henceforth here is an example; on page 355 he makes a statement that disparages the Founding Fathers of The United States by his complete conjecture; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and all of Congress called for the extermination of all the American natives. There is no such proof of this and absolutely no documentation to back up his statements. As you will quickly notice in the book, there are no references to exactly where he got his information. There may be a bibliography, but never is there a book reference or let alone a page reference to a book to back up his statements.
His facts are often wrong. On page 128, he calls Marblehead, Massachusetts, Mobilehead. He slyly omits the fact on page 351, that the notorious "Hair Buyer" Hamiliton, the British Commander in the Western outposts who bought the scalps of men, women and children, had this name attributed to him. He only emphizises that Americans scalped victims. On page 355, he says that perhaps Americans killed an Indian chief. No proof is offered, he just feels like offering the statement. On page 365, he mixes up Charlestown, Massachusetts with Charleston, South Carolina. No proof reader here. And on page 350 he states that there were West Virginians. West Virginia did not even exist at the time.
Poor job Mr. Harvey with your myths.
A revised look at the American Revolution  Jan 29, 2006

Journalist Robert Harvey has attempted to write a "corrective" regarding the American Revolution; it's his belief that the Americans have mythologized and glorified the events and people involved, while the British have merely ignored them. Considering both trends to be negative and counter-productive, he has written this book with the hope of bringing both sides into better balance.

At the beginning Harvey states that "virtually every common assumption has to be substantially modified, if not rejected." Some of these "assumptions" that he challenges include: Americans were not just motivated by a love of liberty, but more by economic self-interest and internal social unrest; a large number of Americans opposed resistance to Britain (8% of the population left America after the war); British commanders were incompetent while America's were geniuses; Saratoga was "the turning point" of the War; and French intervention "saved" the colonies from destruction. Harvey's most compelling argument regarding these objections is with the French intervention: he points out, and it makes sense, that when the French decided to back the American cause, it forced the British to concentrate its naval power off the European continent rather than against the colonies. The least compelling concerns his dismissing the British military leaders as being "merely" arrogant or lazy or overconfident - faults in generals that have wrecked many an army.

Harvey is usually pretty fair-minded, and instead of totally debunking standard beliefs (he points out Washington's failures in the War, which the mythologists try to ignore, but recognizes his strengths, too), he re-examines them in a more critical light. I thought his final chapter on the creation of the Constitution after the country almost fell to anarchy, bankruptcy, and internal revolt after the British were defeated to be the best. He is quick to point out that the truly amazing thing about the Constitution and the "American experiment" in democracy was how they were able to combine individual freedoms with a set body of laws, to put controls on what undoubtedly would have spun off into total chaos. He is very impressed with how the Constitution was hammered out and what it finally meant for a free republic - as we all should still be today. Harvey writes engagingly and with verve, and his book is a most interesting one. Whether his goals in writing the book were ever actually achieved (see my first paragraph above), it's hard to say (my guess would be doubtful), I personally got much pleasure from reading it. Recommended.
Littler Bit of How the Other Side Saw It  Nov 7, 2005
As someone who isn't very familiar with the American Revolution, I was looking for a summary history, preferably one that didn't get bogged down in the mythology that all too often surrounds old wars. Harvey's book fit the requirements. He summarizes the war well, though admittedly from a British prespective. He also provides a "reality check" of sorts for what we Americans have been taught to believe happened. Washington still comes out a hero, but one with noticeably fewer Godlike qualities, and a man who actually made some serious mistakes. Harvey also defends the Loyalists as not the Devils they are often painted to be. And, he points out that the British actually won most of the battles.

A couple of intersting ideas, the French really won the war for the Americans, and a lot of those American "lovers of freedom"
also loved the idea of slavery. Hmmm. The British's experience in the Colonies was very similar to the Americans experiences in Vietnam a couple of hunderd years later.

I'd defintely recommend the book.
The American War.  May 27, 2005
At last, a book that scrapes away all the patriotic, American propaganda and rhetoric surrounding this conflict for the last two-hundred years and produces an unbiased, accurate, even-handed and honest version of events for the first time.

The American War has deliberately been distorted ever since it was fought by American historians eager to promote their 'creation myth' in the style they're have liked it to have happened; namely righteous, noble, American heroes battling evil, dastardly, incompetent British redcoats. But this isn't the reality.

This book is a fascinating and detailed overview of the whole of the American War that manages to resist the modern American failing of lapsing into self-indulgent, patriotic wallowing and just tells us what happened, when, where and why.

Most American writers would have you believe that the British were military inept buffoons during this war, but that isn't the truth, just patriotic boasting. Also the idea that the Americans won the war by sniping at the dumb British redcoats from behind trees with accurate rifles is false. In fact, both sides used riflemen, but mostly smooth-bore muskets.

George Washington is also correctly exposed as a mediocre general who lost two-thirds of the battles he fought against the British. And of those he won, he had a large numerical advantage over the enemy in each. Washington certainly wasn't the great military genius his admirers would have us all believe today.

Interestingly, the myth about 'British tyranny' provoking the American Colonies to rebel is examined and smashed. In fact, the American Colonies had all the freedoms that the Britons back home did. Trouble started when a radical, hard-line group of the American elite came to power and wanted to break away to pursue their own, selfish, agenda.

Only when this demand was refused did the cries about 'British tyranny' begin. But, then again, if you're an American Rebel trying to engineer a war and stir up unjustified trouble, what else are you going to say to encourage fellow Americans to join the army and hate the British! British tyranny to the American Colonies was merely a myth to justify the war.

The reality was that the British won most of the battles and captured most of the biggest settlements. The Rebels spent most of the war on the defensive, usually retreating instead of risking pitched battles where possible. The French came in and saved the Rebels by giving them money and military aid!

That's more or less the truth of it, as demonstrated in this uncompromising book. Of course, modern Americans don't want people to know that, so they assault us with fanciful, Brit-bashing, historically inaccurate, drivel such as Mel Gibson's 'The Patriot' instead. However, reading this book is well worth your time.

For example, the idea, popular amongst Americans today, that the Rebels won the Battle of Bunker Hill. In fact, as this book convincingly demonstrates, the British actually won the battle but the Americans are too proud to admit it and thus claim victory even today!

This is a great book! Acquire and read at all cost if you want to know about the REAL American War rather than cinematic nonsense like `The Patriot'. It really does explode some outrageous myths and puts it straight for once and all...

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