The Long Goodbye: The American Revolution in Britain
Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. ET
The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, by John Trumbull (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
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Seen through American eyes, July 4, 1776 marks a triumphant moment: the birth of a bold new nation committed to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Through British eyes, the American Revolution looked quite different. To the king, of course, the war for independence was an affront, the disproportionate response of an ungrateful colonial rabble to all that he and the British Empire had done for them. To leaders in Parliament and the generals in the field, the humiliating defeat cost them their jobs and permanently crippled their careers.
But beyond Parliament and the palace, while the war went on, it became clear that British opinion was far more nuanced. The population had been bitterly divided about the war’s meaning, how to win it, and whether it was even worth fighting. Ordinary Britons vigorously debated every new twist and turn in the unfolding drama. Some grew angry at the toll the fighting was taking on their lives and livelihoods. Others objected to the war on the basis of conscience, continually urging reconciliation and peace.
Drawing on the latest scholarship, historian Richard Bell explores the American Revolution through the various British perspectives. He argues that the birth of the United States was an equally defining moment for the British people and for the future of the British Empire.
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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.