Roads to Revolution

Between 1764 and 1775 thirteen British colonies in North America each started down their own road to revolution against the British Empire. As John Adams recalled, the colonies were so different in their government, religions, and customs, and had so little to do with each other, "that to unite them in the same principles in theory and the same system of action" would be an extraordinary feat. Yet the radical changes in the political, economic, and social dimensions of transatlantic life wrought by the end of the Seven Years War would do just that, bringing Americans and Britons alike to new senses of the meaning of liberty and equality.

  • Price of Peace

    In February 1763, Parliament approved a peace treaty in which France gave up all claims to North America. It released the British colonies from the constant threat of foreign encirclement and bred a spirit of pride among Britons everywhere. But the expense of waging war and managing peace proved ruinously high—and someone would have to pay for it all.

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  • Taking Liberties

    Americans lost little time in redefining their understanding of British authority in the wake of revenue measures such as the Stamp Act and Townshend duties. From 1765 to 1770, some among the most vocal and influential sections of colonial society rapidly developed new concepts of rights and liberties as counter-attacks to what they saw as the twin threats of corruption in British society and despotism in British government.

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  • Confronting an Empire

    By the beginning of 1771, a growing number of Americans so distrusted the British government that words seemed impotent when compared to deeds. Such emotions were exacerbated by a transatlantic credit crisis in 1772 and the Tea Act of 1773. But it was Parliament’s overreaction to the Boston Tea Party that fueled a common sense of purpose among colonials everywhere, along with a shared willingness to arm themselves in defense of their rights.

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