tv Scars of Independence CSPAN July 2, 2017 8:01pm-9:02pm EDT
the book is fascinating and for sale outside. and it tells the story of the american revolution that is rarely, if ever, told. we're also grateful because holger did a lot of research for the book here. he was a research fell flow 201-2013. the new york public library has a short-term research fellowship that supports scholars from outside the new york metropolitan area who ared gauged in graduate level and it's always our pressure to highlight the work done here. i want to quickly say that i had the distinct honor of working under lewis lappum at lappum's quarterly and one our my great professional and penalize so i couldn't be more happy to have him on hand to steer the conversation. he is recording this for an episode of his pod cast, and i
>> ready to go? >> yes. >> shy tell you that i think this is a wonderful book and i hope you all go out and read it. it's a dish thought i knew something about american history, and i didn't know this story, and it's got all kinds of angles and questions to it, and so we're going to start with holger talking about what the -- first of all, what is the theme, what do you mean by the violent birth of the american revolution. give us a small sketch of the story you're going to tell and then till us how you got -- why you got into writing the book, what prompted you to do this work and where it began and why is it important.
>> thank you. good evening. it's a history of the revolution and the revolutionary war and starts around 1774-75 and we take the story for the war to 1783 and then look a little beyond what happened to the various parties and the legacies of the revolution, both in the narrative of the british empire and of course the new american nation. i first got curious about revolutionary violence a decade ago if was researching a previous become on cart stumbled upon monuments in churches in england and told story odd american loyalist being hunted, differ possessed and driven out of their country into exile for
opposing the revolution and they seemed hard to reconcile with the conventional narrative that i held in my mind, of a rather restrained, unviolent revolution. researched the stories, and what jumped out at me were two things. one, the sheer scale and pervasiveness of violence that affected civilians, combatants and captors on all sides, and, two, also that the participant and the survivors made sense of their revolutionary struggle in terms of the violence. the american college students and public didn't seem to read history that didn't acknowledge the profound importance of the violence you you think of it as a civil war. >> yeah. >> explain that.
>> so, the america's founding is not just your conventional heroic struggle for noble ideas. it's profoundly violent civil war, america's first civil war with the british empire in america with fully a third of the white population in, say, 1770, opposing the idea of revolution and preferring to stay within the british empire. so, i looked more broadly at the -- i decide that from early on i decided that the story needed to be told from multiper perspectives so we have the american patriots the loyalist, the british perspective, the specter of free, enslaved, indigenous because i wanted to
transcend -- i didn't want to -- innocent victims. >> in the beginning, it is a civil war and it's a question of an identity. who and what is an american, because these are colonials and as colonials, subjects of the king, as are the british on the other side, and the -- how does the question of identity play out? how do you know who is an american? are they to be treated as fellow subjects or as savages? this is a problem for the british. >> that's a problem for the british. so, the american revolution is
one of the most, if not the most contentious issues in 18th 18th century british politics that divides the leadership, divides the broader political nation, and the crux of this is the notion of identity, who exactly is an american in, say, 1770. on the one hand americans are quite similar to mainland brittons. they share a language, share a common religion, heritage of political rights, allegiance to the same crown, flourishing trade and so on and so forth. on the other hand, from a -- the sense of similarity is shared by many colonials at the time. they call themselves americans, quite a common term by then, but they also mean british subjects happening to live in the north american part of the british empire. on the other hand, britain's brittons see differences emerge. they regard american colonials
as more parochial, less widely traveled. they see their britishness diluted through immigration, through the transportation of convicts from the british isles, through the presence of half a million slaves of african heritage, through the presence of the frontier. and so whether you are -- but whether you emphasize similarities or emphasize differences, across the political spectrum the emerging conflict is seen as an unnatural civil war. that's a common phrase used to describe the conflict at the time. this has impreliminary -- impreliminary indications objects the conflict becomes an armed struggle. implications for what counseleds as legitimate and illegitimate means of violence, and how should rebels, who areles fellow subjects, be treated in the
field and so on and so forth. >> when does the violence begin to express itself? i mean, there is the boston massacre in 1770, and you start your book with that. maybe you can say a few word about that. then the armed rebellion doesn't really get going until 1774. right? so, explain how the violence begins to well into the streets so you get rebels and patriots on one side, loyalists and torreys on the other attacking each other. >> so, again, we have these multiple strands and in the book, multiple narrative arcs that intersect. refer to the beginning of the book, describe the boston massacre.
i decide to do that because it is a violent incident we remember well and then to pivot but there's a lot more, and more nuance and complexity we don't remember so well. so, there is -- by the time weigert the book, there's loor a decade at least of street level violence where colonials protest the imperial tax regime and various legislation, not least by physically attacking the representatives of the empire. governors houses, customs officials on the waterfront along the east coast. lewis is referring to this moment in 1774, the continent cal congress responds to punitive legislation by the british parliament but forcing the on continental association, ban on -- the way to implement
the continental association across the territory of the 13 colonies is not least by forming what are called committees of safety. in communities, small and large across the colonials. these are ordinary colonials, 7,000 men and they were, of course, at that time all men. a sizable proportion of the population who begin to police the actions and words of their suspected loyalist mates, those suspected of not supporting the protests against britain. but they operate -- so you might have -- if you are suspected of not supporting the rebellion you might have your mail intercepted, be called in for interrogation, might have your business premises or your private homes raided for
evidence. the committees collaborate with mobs, with crowds on the street, and it soon gets rougher, too. this is where we get into the tarring and feathering, the rail-riding. the torture that is at the heart of the revolution. what is important to understand is it's often said, there's no guillotine in the american revolution and would we just a decade or so later in the french revolution and that's true. but physical violence and psychological violence are not the regrettable exception to an otherwise restrained revolution. they are necessary defining parts of the revolution. the revolution requires the violence to sustain itself. so, -- >> forced into becoming a patriot citizen, forced into it.
right? i mean, the committee of safety, if you don't agree with us that you are protesting the empire, we're going to tar and feather you or break down your house. right? >> well, try to persuade you to see your ways and come over to us and we'll be quite insistent with nat and give you multiple chances. but if not -- as we get to 1775 and 1776 at the colonial indication level and the continental level which provides treason laws, mechanisms for ban issuement, imprisonment and soon, but if you are unlucky, like let's say one story, we'll debate 16-year-old son of an anglican loyalist family in connecticut. he gets picked up by his patriot neighbors who suspect walter knows where this loyalist
brother is hiding, with others. the patriots subject walter to some forms of water torture. they threaten him with being cut in two on a log in a saw mill. if you are an anglican most you might be dodging bullets fired at your mid-simple you're praying for your legitimate king. you're a loyalist writer or printer or a publisher, you might have your printer seized and burned, and a bounty might be set on your head. >> what's the liberty gang? >> a group of patriots implementing the principles of the revolution. >> all right. and this is beginning to break out, 1774-75. we don't get to the firing at
lexington until '75, right? so, by that time, how sharply drawn are the hostilities, the lines of hostilitiness the colonies. >> win america? john adams' formula is right. a third by then committed to the patriot side. up to one-third loyalist, and fully one-third in the middle. undecideds or hoping to find ways of staying neutral, and then bear in mind that loyalties change over time, according to circumstances, and just because i take an oath of hollywood to one side or the other doesn't necessarily mean those are my genuine political police belief. may just be my only way of protecting my family and my livelihood when one army is closer to the other.
>> we are talking about people that are living in the same town, they're neighbors. >> the same family. you in the franklins of philadelphia, right? founding father who is strong die send dent of the british empire and then becomes one of its strongest critics critics an the son, william, the last royal governor of new jersey who welcomes a passionate leader -- becomes a passionate leader of loyalisis and they never resolve this. >> let's go to british side and the attitude of george iii and the attitude of somebody liked edmond burke in the british parliament and the brothers howe, richard and william. give us the attitude -- how is
george iii thinking about his subjects in america? whom he regards as his children. >> right, yes. george iii, a young king, comes to the throne in his 20s in 1760, a rocky start by 1770 he is an experienced sovereign and political manager. he starts out actually somewhat more moderate than some of his more hawkish advisers, but by the time of the boston tea party and -- we're talking about the continental association, the boycott, he has had enough and moves over to a rather hard line side, and by august 1775, he has the rebels to be declared to be in open and i avowed rebellion and the rebellion against the crown has to be crushed just as
rebellions in scotland or ireland, the british isles or elsewhere in the british empire had to be crushed early in the century or the previous century. >> so the rebels are not to be treated like fellow countrymen who happen to be living in america. they're going to be treated like criminals. >> in law, yes, but -- so, you were referring to the kings role as the father figure. there is an opening always for the wayward american children to come to their senses and be received back into the imperial fold under his benign majesty, but along the way, rebels are rebels, they are not to be -- they're criminals, strictly speaking. they are -- if captured under arms, not to be treat as prisoners of war, but under civil war, and destined for the
court. in practice, that won't work out because of the sheer numbers and the risk of retaliation but we'll get back to that litter. you asked about figures. in order to orchestrate the military effort, george iii puts in place a set of generals and admirals, including the howe brothers lewis was referring. to they have an interesting story. there used to be a third howe brother, george, who fought in the previous war, the seven years war, fell near ticonderoga, and the people of massachusetts erect a monument to him in westminster abbey, but the howe brothers, the surviving howe brothers, are fond of one colony, and it lands them with the reputation of being somewhat soft as they start the campaign to suppress the rebellion, and my sense is their real mistake is to think they could suppress
the rebellion without in the use of maximum force and that like other leaders in britain, they consistently overestimate the real strength of the loyalists. who else were you -- ed mud book. >> there's a division of schapp opinion in colonies and also in england the sides pro rebel and pro empire. >> quite. it cuts -- obviously you don't get into the government of george iii anymore if you're opposing that war policy. but there is a strong opposition in parliament and in -- across the wider political nation. in fact, the army itself is divided, as were most officers once ordered to lead their regiments against the americans do so if even before the worry
they advocate more conciliatoriy measures. some resigned their commissions. the earl of ething ton, he resigns his commission and is very el queen about -- eloquent about it. he says i knock get involved in a war against fellow subjects and if my duties as a citizen and my duties as an officer i am in conflict then the former has to prevail over the latter until they can again be reconciled, and he means until we have a war against our historical enemies, french absolutists or the spartan yards. >> as the war gets going in 1776 you point out it's one they ever bloodest wars in american history there are per capita more americans killed in the
revolutionary war that were killed in world war i or world war ii and there's the -- we're now beginning to talk about years of '76 to '83 when peace descends. but many people are killed. this is a very bloody conflict. most of our history books sort of pretend it was matter of idealistic gentlemen but it's not. so, talk about some of the kind of combat. talk about the looting, burn, raping, of villagers and atrocities on both sides. >> you're absolutely right with the sole exception of the civil
war, by my account the second american civil war. the revolutionary war costs per capita the highest number of casualties and that is even if you count only patriot casualties as a proportion of the patriot population. it yields the highest mortality rate amongst prisoners of war in any american war, significantly larger than the korean war, which would be the sad number two ranked order. you're referring to the impact of the war on both civilians and combatants and captives. so, all wars, women in all wars are at risk of actual assault and rape. this is no different in the american revolution. in fact american women are at risk of rape by not just british
but even american soldiers. we know about some of the instances through two sets of sources. some lead to british courts martial and so upstairs in the manuscript reading room i was able to read through some instances there. but we also know about these stories through depositions that some brave american women, girls, give to investigators after their harrows experiences. i tell the story of abigail pammer, 13-year-old girl who with her teenage friends and an older female pregnant relative is raped by british soldiers, three connective days in the home of her grandfather. this is the end of 1776, early
1777 the continental congress gets word, hears rumors of these assaults and sends out a commission to investigate. and so members of congress and local legal officials and others take depositions. they're then published with the --s anonymousized and disseminated in the newspapers across the colonies and the british isles and we might come to speak before an aspect of that but what i want the reader to take away is that to do justice to the issue of rape in the american revolution, we need to recognize on the one hand the experiences of the individual traumatized women and on the other hand seeing the patriots used that enemy violence, those war crimes, as a political tool in the moral and propaganda war
that shadowed the war on the ground. you were asking about atrocities in the field. >> i mean there occasions where the rebels would attack the british at night and murder them and their barns and the same thing happens on the other side. that kind of warfare through the entire war. >> there are -- so, the standards -- obviously war is violent by definition but what consistents as legitimate and illegitimate violence in a war changes across time and space. so, the benchmark, the standards are recognizes codes and conventions of laws of war at the time. such as you ought to give -- grant quarter to a surrendering enemy. you should observe certain minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners of war
once contained and to me not terribly surprisingly, both sides infringe and break those conventions at various times. my objective with the book wasn't really to come up with a balance sheet but to try and provide as even-handed an account as possible. it turns out, on balance, and in part due to the leadership of george washington and colleagues in the congress, it turns out that by and large there were more -- fewer infringement by the revolutionary forces than by the british. the incident lewis is referring to is the other way around. would you like me to -- >> i mean, briefly. i'm just trying to give a sense of the violence that is pervasive on both sides. >> sure.
>> and also -- i mean, the prison conditions. the british have a prison ship in the bay in the east river and 16,000 american prisoners die. that's an enormous number. >> there are several dozen ships and this is a number for the entire war across all prison sites and prison ships, yeah. i'll give you an example of an atrocity and what we can learn about -- from it about the moral dilemmas involved. the sense of the book is a scene of a nighttime surprise attack by several hundred british forces on 104 continentals, american dragoons who are sleeping. it's an attack with bayonets
only, to reduce the friendly fire risk to maintain the element of surprise and play on the psychology of those beside to be attacked. american forces are less accustomed to bayonet warfare that european professional arms. they have an intense terror of that weapon. the surprise works. the british forces surround the six ponds. the americans very quickly, when yanked out of their sleep realize they have no chance of resisting and seek to surrender but this is an instance where the british forces continue and club and bayonet their way through that grisly scene. what we learned from the statements of some of the american survivors is that they observe some of their assailants to be hesitating. they seemed to have doubts. was it right to attack their fellow subjects who were begging
for quarter, for mercy, in their own in their same language. they send back for orders to their commanding officers who were sort of one step back, and the order comes, yes, kill all of them, and so they continue. >> what about the -- washington crossing the delware and attacking on christmas day? is that the same kind of thing? do they break in on the enemy and kill them in their beds. >> now. wouldn't compare them. it results in a good spin story here and there. i mean, you know about the hessians, the 36,000 mayorn troops, the shortcut we use this hessian. i tried -- this is an instance of reputation -- the his herbans
are not -- they have reputation, and the british are just -- the moment in the war that lewis is referring to gives rise to this wonderful piece of spin that we use in the cover of the book. this is -- you might be able to see it closer up hopefully later. this i painting by john trumbell. now, in the art gallery of yale university called "the death of general mercer at princeton. "the scene is mercer is separated from this british men and he doesn't ask for quarter, he doesn't extinct surrender and he is mortally wounded.
the story the patriots spin immediately is he did ask for quarter and was reidentifiesed and was killed in cold blood and the patriots accidented his corpse in a coffee house, carefully choreographed death. and trumbell paints it in oil. >> talk about the -- the americans are very good at it. apparently, if i read the book crequely, they're better at it than the british. >> i think they are and connects to one of the more surprising findings in my research. so, this is not just a war about strategy and manpower and logistics. as much a war of persuasion. it matters not just how each side conducts itself but also what stories each side can tell
about their and the other side's conduct. the -- so, obviously neither side is above concocting stories of war crimes when it suits them. just gave you an example with general america, to my mind much more interesting is -- was to find how creative and how relentless the americans were, the revolutionaries were in documenting provable british atrocities. so, in aftermath of, say, the clusters of ramp i was referring to earlier, the atrocity, the baylor massacre, the continental congress would appoint commissions to investigate. so this is the enlightenment and empirical approaches become increasingly important from scientific to legal practice.
the revolutionaries bring imperialist approaches to the documentation of their enemy's war crimes. they send out commission, use their own members of the continental congress. many of them have legal training. they might use army officers on it and who have access to evidence. they might send medical personnel, priests, anyone with the perceived authority to document what might have occurred, and they would then collect written evidence if the enemy in retreat had discarded book cozy which might give hints what the orders were. they interrogated enemy can'tors. they took eye-witness statemented from local bistander -- bystanders and they would document the pick nature and number of wounds in the body both injured but surviving and dead american soldiers and then collate all these evidence, put
is in a robert send it to the congress if the congress would immediately publish if will awe the evidence in an appendix put it out for the newspapers across the colonials and in britain, as a tool for this war for hearts and minds, phrase used at the time. american hearts and minds, but also british, bearing in mind that this continued to be a highline conscientious war back in britain. you're right, lewis, the americans are -- the win the moral, the propaganda war, if you want, hands down. i suspect part of the reason for that is, it is much easier for rebels to spin a narrative of victimhood. the british empire and another empire has to demonstrate strength, so even when there are instances where it's the eye way around and the americans are guilty of breaking the codes of
war, the british will not turn a loss into a moral asset as the revolutionaries very effectively did. >> let's come now to the end of the war. how does it so happen that after the war, some kind of reconciliation is possible? i mean, these are two sides that have treated each other brutally. what happens to the loyalists? many of them haved in into exile: they return? are they allowed to keep their property? are they accepted into the new united states of america? >> it's a very mixed story. about 60,000 white and black loyalists go into permanent exile, taking with them 15,000 slaves.
that leaves the vast majority of loyalists, who wish to stay or return to their communities, stay or return from temporary exile. the peace treaty between the british crown and the new united states declares amnesty, end of prosecutions, and in a very soft clause, the right to reclaim previously confiscated property. the reality on the grounds very different so one of the sets of paper its was studying here at the library where the papers of the last british general, he reads on a daily basis the stories of loyalist trying to make their journey back, trying row claim property, and meeting not just with discrimination but with renewed popular violence, threats to their lives, tarring and feathering, some political
murders. the reconciliation is be no means a forgone conclusion. overall, the new american nation does end up reintegrateing itself somewhat faster than many other societies after revolutions that were also civil wars. it helps that 60,000 of the -- are already in permanent exile but there's more to that the and this where is we come to leadership of figures like washington work insists that the new nation needs to comply with the peace treaty, and claim itself place amongst the powers of the world. alexander hamilton makes a keir immediately after the war, the lawyer next city, defending loyalists against discrimination and property claims he says the
order and tolerance must trump the passions of a few, mean vindictive passions of a view and has the argument the new nation needs the capital that comes with the loyalists and so across communities in the 13 states, individuals think about the capital, the professional skills, the consumer power of their former neighbors and work out gradually the reconciliation. there is one other critical element to why this worked out and that is to do with memory or, rather, forgetting. the first step of the whitewash offering trev luigs anywhere violence happens -- revolutionary violence happens meetly in this moment in 1783. the aftermag of the war. the patriots control the story, indication of winners get to tell the story of the conflict. they write, american -- on american violence out of the founding narrative, and the
loyalists in turn understand that the price of their re-integrate is to bear their own scars quietly and don't nurture a melancholy folk -- lo reof loss as after the civil war. >> the first part is white washing. >> that's the first phase. you the british, who have little interest in talking about the greatest imperial disaster until the period of world war ii, and so on the send ten sin tenial of the end of the american revolution, 1883, the historian refers to the revolution of that embarrassing episode we try to mention as sell as we can and then the third phase of whitewashing is where even the patriot blood shed is written out in favor of rather quaint,
harmless war and that is explain issue think in part with the changing geostrategic circumstances where the united states and the united kingdom form a new and special relationship and this episode of violence between now kindreds anglosaxon people irvery inconvenient and written out of the story. >> what lesson can we learn? what scars of independence bear on our circumstances today? we're still very good at spin. right? we kind of write -- the fact that the american foreign policy for the last three odd years has
been based on terrorism, state sponsored american terrorism, but we never see that in a story. right? the -- so was that sort of a idea in your mind? >> well, i should preface whatever i might say, probably from a german born history lecturer of history to electric lecture americans. i do think -- there are good reasons why this is a good moment, an urgent moment to confront the tumultuous birth of the american nation, knowing international and more domestic context. so, it seems to me americans have drowning their last great romance with war, with this war, not just be live is in age of global conflict and terrorism
and debates about the nature of patriotism but i turn it around and say it's precisely because we deal with these uncertain times in uncertainties, stalled revolutions and failed states, that we should engage with these tensions between a moral purpose and the violent means of per suing -- pier pursuing it. i read the revolution as a cautionary tail for the modern american empire which had a missionary approach to nation building and understanding the relationship between violence and nation building remains an element of today. was also -- if you remember the debates about extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation. critics, both within the u.s. congress and outside, repeatedly
sited george waze innocence tense on proper treatment of prisons over war. when you get closer to home as americans are trying to forge a path forward from present divisions, the extreme political porlarization, the demonization of the political enemy, the intimidation of the press, the use of violence as a means of politics, was all there at the founding and maybe as we were talking about re-integration marry there's some hope that ann bitzer i divided societiening identify a way of re-big separation. as a historian hope it wouldn't be at the cost of forget hogue we got this -- forgetting how we got to this point. >> questions. we now have the -- we have time for some questions. >> there are two microphones. >> thank you very much.
so, given what hey have learned with sectarian violence in iraq and the balkans and other places it's never so simple as loyalists and rebels. so ambrose said that politics is a strife of interest masquerading at prisons the conduct of public affairs to approve advantage and war is a continuation of politics by other means. so i'm kind 0 curious wrote you see the players are at that time frame who are using this to gain advantage and using the war and instigating the war for public advantage -- excuse me -- private advantage, private interests, and how do the immigrants at that time -- because you have this whole melting pot. how do they come into this and
how is this sectarian as far as on a more complex level as far as immigrants from other areas because they may not have the same status. >> two very big questions. i will try brief answers. i'm not sure that individuals instigate the war at the very beginning for private -- 'otoe pursue private objectives but you're absolutely right. once the conflict is underway, at a local community to community you will find individuals who will pursue their private interests and declare loyalty whether or not those were expressed their genuine political beliefs or their ideology, and many settle old scores under the cover of
fighting for the new national cause, all scores that are very private and local. the question of immigrants is very interesting. again, you need to look at this really ultimately colonial or state by state and community by community. there is a certain pattern of smaller groups, minorities, opting to stay with the british empire because they fear they will fair worse in the unites than in a diverse multifairous british empire and that goes also for most native american nations. most of which try to stay neutral. that doesn't work. some split up, most side with the british empire, hoping to be protected.
that did not work out, either. >> dr. hoock, like your discussion of the links to which -- lengths to the congressional authorities went to gather all thissed and their success on the propaganda front, and a great deal of your discussion here and in your earlier article relies on the source base of these reports. but seeing as how these are prepared very specifically for a propaganda purpose, how can we treat these atrocity reports as anything close to a reliable primary source? how many grains of truths versus enormous fabrications and pie -- hyperbole. >> very good question. so, the -- you're right that i made extensive use of some of the depositions.
you try to cross-check one set of evidence with other sources. and if private sources not intended for publication, like journal entries, diary entries, private correspondens, not just from the american side but from the british, suggest the same line of argument, that's one way to cross-check. and so after the -- remember the atrocity of the sixth ponds and all happened in jersey i was talking about. a very small number of british officers write back home to their families or make a note anywhere diaries saying, we won that military encounter but we lost in legitimacy. and so -- >> mean the question of news and fake news is very much in the
game. right? >> a very interesting. you have been very clear about describing this as a civil war but i'm still not entirely clear since this is in some way revisionist. what i'm not clear is what the war is actually about, because an deck notely it's always seem the people who were loyalist's also very wealthy and whether the division is about -- simply imported into this land or on to this landscape is going to be a monarchist hierarchical thing versus the star and -- store and narrative we are given it's pat local rule and it's local rule and foreign rule and the degree it's actually just repudiating all british ways of life.
i'm wondering when you talk bat civil war where they're aligning along those kinds of questions or whether it's along very different kinds of terms. >> yes. it's -- thank you. a very good question. in fact -- you're right, stereo typically we used to see the loyalists as a white anglican elite. loyalism cuts across class, religious denomination and race. i mentioned brieffully terms of the exiles at the end of the war, both 9,000 free blackists and 16,000 slaves and the native americans siding with the british. i'm not really rewriting the story of what the war was about. there is the economic and the tax question, the question of self-rule, and self-governance and so on.
it is more about the -- what it required to win that conflict on the part of both the -- both the starters and rebels and what did -- required on the side of the british to try to suppress it ultimately unsuccessfully. >> it's not rich and poor. >> no. >> continental association, the commissions of safety, these are wealthy people. >> not exclusively. >> but i mean they -- revolution doesn't divide rich and poor. i think that's what the question was. >> yeah. it's much more complex than that. it cuts across in all sorts of ways. [inaudible question] >> yes.
[inaudible question] >> hi, professor hoock, fascinating. you do an excellent job document this pervasive violence and i buy that argument. allen taylor has brought this up as will as robert parkinson and others. my question is it brings to mind the comparison throw french revolution, that you bring up yourself, and historians of the french revolution for decades and decade, maybe sisters, have obsessed over what drives the violence, the terror. is is foreign invasion, the brunswick manifesto, counterrevolution, the verdict ideology of the revolution itself. i'm looking for this book to do and to tell me is what is causing this violence? what's driving this escalating violence? >> human nature? i don't mean to be flippant.
the -- so, it would be very interesting -- for someone to do a systemic comparison, and i am not with this book claiming that the revolution is comparable to what have been called the first total wars of the french revolutionary period of the terror of the french revolution. there is no -- at the end of the revolution to a comparable extent. the violence results from the conflict of interest, of ideology, of the passionate adherence to opposing beliefs, and with some private interests, as the gentleman at the back was
suggesting, being fought outment a lot of -- if we take -- i believe you work on prisoners of war. you know, cited that stick of the highest mortality rate. that's not by design. there's no british policy to destroy large populations of prisoners. this is partly a function of circumstances, the british having to accommodate thousands of prisoners, 3,000 miles away from home. have for accommodate them in crowded conditions favoring the spreading of contagious diseases. there are awe abusive guards and there is a degree of studied neglect but no state in that period would have been able to keep alive a -- the entire population of prisoners.
so, did that begin to give you a sense? one more, yes. >> thank you. you spoke very deliberate about the violence in terms of mental and physical cruelty that the british sent to the americas. i'm particularly interested in the acts of annihilation that was committed against women. aim to leave this audience believing that it was conceived in british over there and brought here, practiced here to be cruel, especially mentally and physically to women? >> thank you. not in any systemic way at all. women play significant roles on all sides of the revolution.
so we have known for a long time about the women on the revolutionary side who are critical in leading the tea boycott, who are supporting knitting for the american soldiers, who are acting as couriers and spies, and some even under arms. you find the same on the other side, on the loyalist side. but of course you're right, as in any war, any military conflict i can think of, women were at risk of physical violence, sexual violence, from armed forces. i was talking earlier about the british. there is evidence also of continental soldiers, american soldiers, patriot militia and more so loyalist, american loyalist militia also committing
rapes of american women. but this is not the result of a systemic policy on either side. this is the conduct of individuals, mostly soldiers, occasionally officers, in the field, taking advantage of vulnerable populations. thank you. >> all right. thank you. that's it. >> we were getting a sign from at the back. thank you all very much. >> thank you. [applause] >> that was rather somber note to end on. [inaudible discussion]