A People Numerous and Armed

By John Shy,

Book cover of A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence

Book description

Americans like to think of themselves as a peaceful and peace-loving people, and in remembering their own revolutionary past, American historians have long tended to focus on colonial origins and Constitutional aftermath, neglecting the fact that the American Revolution was a long, hard war. In this book, John Shy shifts…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked A People Numerous and Armed as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is a classic and provocative set of essays by an eminent historian who asked whether and in what ways the War for Independence resembled modern revolutionary wars. It led every serious historian of the Revolution to realize that the war was not simply a conflict between armies but a political struggle to secure the loyalty of the civilian population.

This classic collection of essays is an absolute gem. Writing in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, Shy reminds us that our own struggle for independence also demonstrated a “visceral, ugly, face-to-face quality” that affected civilians as well as combatants. However harsh his subject matter, Shy is such a brilliant writer that he’s a pleasure to read. These insightful zingers speak for themselves:

“A reservoir, sand in the gears, the militia looked like a great spongy mass that could be pushed aside or maimed temporarily but that had no vital center and could not be destroyed.”

“Once common folk had…

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