The American Revolution
This feature tells the story of the American Revolution and the loss of Britain's North American colonies during the eighteenth century.
Few events possess as much historical significance as the rebellion of thirteen British colonies in North America. By successfully defying George III and the British Parliament and winning, with French aid, the War of Independence, the colonies created the United States of America. As a republic in an age of monarchies the new nation challenged the old order.
The American Revolution has often been portrayed in patriotic terms in both Britain and America that gloss over its complexity. The Revolution was both an international conflict, with Britain and France vying on land and sea, and a civil war among the colonists, causing over 60,000 loyalists to flee their homes. Freedom did not reach all the people of North America, since the new republic refused to outlaw slavery and failed to recognize the limits of European expansion at great cost to the native peoples of America.
Portrait and uniform of an American General
Barnard’s History [rb.31.c.157]
© The British Library Board
The implications of the Revolution were also felt beyond America. Military defeat and the loss of the majority of the North American colonies created disquiet in Britain and fed the flames of radical agitation. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States also provided inspiration for the French revolutionaries of 1789, offering a new language of liberty for the world and an example for modern constitutional democracies.
The British Library holds many items related to the American Revolution, recording American and British responses to the times in which they lived. This gallery makes use of some of them to illustrate the course of the American Revolution and to investigate some of these issues.
You can also read and print a longer bibliographical essay: