1774: The Long Year of Revolution, Mary Beth Norton
Mary Beth Norton’s new book is a narrative history of the final lead-up to the American Revolutionary War, from the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 to the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Norton persuasively argues that this “long 1774” was not “of a piece” (p. xvi) with the Stamp Act or Townshend Acts crises. In fact, it was the turning point that led to revolution. For Norton, the critical tell is that the word “Loyalist” came into usage in 1774. This implied that there were also disloyal colonists.
Surely historians have covered this famous 16-month period before? As Norton notes, local histories, especially of Massachusetts, have treated the “long 1774” as a critical time. Books that emphasize tea’s causal role in the American Revolution also privilege this period. Yet Norton offers the best and most comprehensive account of the critical “year” of the imperial crisis. In rich week-by-week detail based on painstaking research, Norton traces how debate over British policies consumed and polarized all thirteen colonies. Norton picks up where Richard D. Brown left off 50 years ago in Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts, a study of the
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