Rezension: Richard Hall, Atlantic Politics

Richard Hall, Atlantic Politics, Military Strategy and the French and Indian War, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2016.

Rezensiert für den Arbeitskreis Historische Friedensforschung bei H-Soz-u-Kult von: Stephen Conway, University College London.

For a book that focuses on the defeat in July 1755 of General Edward Braddock near the banks of the Monongahela, Richard Hall’s study seems at first glance to have a rather grandiloquent title. But it soon becomes apparent that the capacious claims of the title are fully justified. Hall places the battle in a broad context, not only relating Braddock’s attempt to force the French out of the Ohio valley to simultaneous British military efforts in upper New York and Nova Scotia, but more importantly, seeking to tease out the connections between Braddock’s defeat and the great fracturing of the Anglo-world that we know as the American Revolution. Based on extensive research (though mainly in printed sources), Atlantic Politics, Military Strategy and the French and Indian War is a valuable addition to the existing literature both on Braddock’s expedition and on the Seven Years War in North America more generally.

Hall engages thoroughly with the established scholarship on Braddock’s defeat. He rightly points out that historians of earlier generations latched onto the vanquishing of Braddock’s regular troops as evidence of the failings of a hide-bound British army, which embodied all the ills of an aristocratic and hierarchical British society. In the older literature (and still, it has to be said, in some of the more modern), the battle near the banks of the Monongahela is depicted as a British defeat. Redcoats in linear formation fired at a largely unseen enemy, and suffered appalling casualties before they finally broke and ran. The colonists who served alongside Braddock’s regulars, by contrast, are seen as much better suited to the conditions of warfare in North America, and as possessing distinctly American qualities, which sprang from a strong commitment to rights and liberties that was characteristic of an essentially egalitarian colonial society. As Hall points out, this image of two very different political and social cultures is part of the myth making that historians in the United States used to help to create the idea of American exceptionalism.

Hall sees many flaws in this interpretation and brings them to our attention. In particular, he goes to some lengths to rescue the reputation of Braddock, the regular troops that he commanded, and the mid-eighteenth-century British army as an institution. He sees Braddock’s defeat, and the limited success of British arms in North America until 1758, not as symptoms of British military failings, but rather as signs of a fundamental structural problem in the British Atlantic empire. Braddock, given sweeping powers by the government in London, found himself unable to overcome what he saw as colonial obstruction. He, like his successor the Earl of Loudoun, fumed at the reluctance of the provincial assemblies to provide the men and resources that he needed to complete his campaign successfully, and bemoaned the lack of executive authority in the British colonies. Hall sees Braddock’s fate as an almost inevitable consequence of a growing divergence between metropolitan and colonial perceptions of political and military rights and responsibilities. Hence his claims for the battle of the Monongahela as an important step on the road to the Revolution. Braddock’s defeat, in Hall’s account, encapsulated and furthered the divergence that was eventually to lead first to post-war constitutional disputes, then to armed clashes between colonists and the British army, and finally to American Independence. weiterlesen

Empfohlene Zitierweise
Stephen Conway: Rezension zu: Hall, Richard: Atlantic Politics, Military Strategy and the French and Indian War. Basingstoke 2016 , in: H-Soz-Kult, 18.05.2017, <www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/rezbuecher-26772>.