Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

by Maya Jasanoff

Hardcover, 2011




New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.


At the end of the American Revolution, 60,000 Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. This groundbreaking book offers the first global history of the loyalist exodus to Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, and beyond.

User reviews

LibraryThing member TerriBooks
An interesting idea; I had never thought about what happened to the people in America who were on the "other side" of the American Revolution. This book documents their diaspora over the next couple generations to places as close as east Florida to as far away as Australia and India. I found the
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story of the black Loyalists, promised freedom by the British if they would fight on their side, particularly interesting. Hundreds of them went first to Nova Scotia and then on to start a new colony in Sierra Leone.

While the subject was interesting, I found the reading heavy going. Although the author tried to personalize the history by following the stories of certain families, there's only so much you can get from the historical record.
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LibraryThing member lfcb
This didn't pass the 100 page test. I'll have to try it again when I'm not as grumpy.
LibraryThing member rivkat
British Loyalists who left the new United States after the American Revolution went on a diaspora unique in that it was internal to the Empire, and thus they remained subjects of the same crown even as they endured sometimes multiple dislocations. They played important roles in Canada and Sierra
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Leone, and also became involved in other British colonies, from the Carribean to India. As loyal Americans, they brought some American attitudes with them, mostly towards race (there were a lot of enslavers, as well as a lot of free and freed blacks) and political participation (see previous parenthetical: whites thought all white men should have political rights, while the blacks thought that they too were loyal subjects of Empire and deserved political rights). Jasanoff argues that the process of resettling and compensating some of the loyalists was part of the formulation of a new conception of the British Empire largely controlling nonwhite populations and recognizing certain limited obligations of crown to subject.
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LibraryThing member Shrike58
While I'm not sure that I buy the author's notion of a "spirit of 1783," which posits a Second British Empire run on centralized hierarchy, paternalism for its subjects, and global reach, it is interesting to read a 360-degree examination of the potential fates of those people who made their bet on
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London and lost. Jasanoff's most important point is that she views the American War as a civil war, having less to do with rights and more to do with divergent views on empire and rolls from there. You can also view the period 1783-1814 as a period of limbo before the Anglo-American commercial and social relationship crystallizes. Also, while I don't know about anyone else, Sir Guy Carleton blandly explaining to an incredulous General Washington that, yes, those Free Blacks in New York who placed their trust in him are going to sail away with the rest of the British evacuation always brings a smirk to my face; while I consider myself a patriotic American, I also believe the those espousing the "Spirit of 1776" were protesting a bit too loudly.
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