War often unites a society behind a common cause, but the notion of diverse populations all rallying together to fight on the same side disguises the complex social forces that come into play in the midst of perceived unity. Michael A. McDonnell uses the Revolution in Virginia to examine the political and social struggles of a revolutionary society at war with itself as much as with Great Britain.
McDonnell documents the numerous contests within Virginia over mobilizing for war--struggles between ordinary Virginians and patriot leaders, between the lower and middle classes, and between blacks and whites. From these conflicts emerged a republican polity rife with racial and class tensions.
Looking at the Revolution in Virginia from the bottom up, "The Politics of War" demonstrates how contests over waging war in turn shaped society and the emerging new political settlement. With its insights into the mobilization of popular support, the exposure of social rifts, and the inversion of power relations, McDonnell's analysis is relevant to any society at war.
[An] extensively researched, clearly written analysis. . . . Offers a blueprint for how historians should examine the attempts by various groups of Americans to acquire liberty and independence in the second half of the eighteenth century.--Common-place
Explores in some depth the tension between the elite and allegedly 'plebian' citizens during the Revolutionary War.--Choice
Provides new insights into Virginia society and its response to wartime mobilization. For scholars of the American Revolution and graduate students, this work provides a wealth of information on Revolutionary Virginia and sets a high standard in historical research.--North Carolina Historical Review
Demands careful reading by all who write or care about eighteenth-century Virginia.--The Journal of American History
Successfully draws from a specific issue conclusions about the nature of the War of Independence and how political conflicts stirred up by the war lingered after the fighting ended. . . . A valuable addition to American Revolutionary War historiography. . . . McDonnell joins a growing list of historians whose analyses of early American societies at war tell us much about class, race, and conceptions of liberty in the American Revolution.--Journal of Military History
The fullest account yet of the struggles among Virginians over the Revolution. . . . McDonnell offers a new and intriguing perspective on this major issue.--Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Required reading for students of the American Revolution.--The Historian
One of the strongest demonstrations yet of the inseparability of the social from the political questions of the Revolutionary era. . . . Captures the texture and the ironies of the home front in what might best be called the first civil war.--Journal of Southern History
There is much that is fresh and valuable in this book.---American Historical Review
Students of the militia's history in America will find this study of great interest.--Journal of America's Military Past
One of the more important recent additions to American colonial and Revolutionary historiography.--Journal of the Early Republic
McDonnell's impressive research allows him to give a fully rounded story of the multifaceted conflict within Virginia.--Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Specialists will appreciate McDonnell's mastery of the historiography of Virginia. But they and others will also recognise and applaud his determination to recall from the past individual people
forced to cope with the experience of war. . . . Wonderfully told.--Australian Book Review
A big book in every sense of the word. . . . Contribute[s] greatly to the social history of the Revolutionary War. . . . Our sense of what the Revolution was and was not is considerably better now than it was before McDonnell's substantial achievement.--William and Mary Quarterly
[An] impressive work. . . . An extremely detailed picture of Virginia at war. . . . [A] deeply researched and radical new take on the War for Independence and the creation of the American Revolution.--Journal of American Studies
McDonnell's impressive book very powerfully sweeps away old myths and presents a powerful case of a Virginia riven by class and social divisions during the Revolutionary War and moving into the postwar era with a greater sense of trepidation than triumph. . . . A model of historical scholarship--a work deeply researched, clearly written, and effectively argued, that adds significantly to our picture of Virginia during the Revolution.--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society