The Politics Of War: Race, Class, And Conflict In Revolutionary Virginia by Michael A. McDonnell

by
June 2007, no. 292
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The Politics Of War: Race, Class, And Conflict In Revolutionary Virginia by Michael A. McDonnell

University of North Carolina Press, $US 45 hb, 544 pp

The Politics Of War: Race, Class, And Conflict In Revolutionary Virginia by Michael A. McDonnell

by
June 2007, no. 292

Over the past four years, we Australians have had considerable experience of the conflicted, and sometimes agonising, politics of war. In this study, Michael A. McDonnell, a historian at the University of Sydney, examines the unanticipated social and political contestations aroused by the demands of another war. In the late eighteenth century, Virginia endured a six-year struggle against the imperial rule of Britain. A settled class of wealthy gentlemen planters who had previously assumed the right to leadership came to find that role questioned in a wholly new politics of war. Middle- and lower-class Virginians began to ask them: how will you distribute the burden of the war equitably across society? Should the wealthy planters be exempt because of their property holdings? Who is to fight and die in this war? Who is to control recruitment? McDonnell’s is not a story of Virginia’s rebels going forth in unison to realise on the battlefield and in their assemblies the famous words of the Virginia patriot, Patrick Henry, in 1776: ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ Instead, readers are made to consider Yorktown, Virginia. When General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army there in 1781, effectively ending the war, he did so to 5000 men of George Washington’s Continental army and 7800 French forces. About 3000 Virginia militiamen gave themselves to the engagement. This, writes McDonnell wryly, ‘of a militia estimated to number almost 50,000’.

Donna Merwick reviews 'The Politics of War: Race, class, and conflict in revolutionary Virginia' by Michael A. McDonnell

The Politics Of War: Race, Class, And Conflict In Revolutionary Virginia

by Michael A. McDonnell

University of North Carolina Press, $US 45 hb, 544 pp

Buy this book

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