In This Review

An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America
By Nick Bunker
Knopf, 2014, 448 pp

The most important task confronting American historians today is to integrate U.S. history with the history of the rest of the world. Conventional treatments of the American Revolution, for example, usually give short shrift to the economics and politics of Great Britain. Bunker’s tightly argued and deeply researched book shows how a broader perspective can shed new light on even the most familiar events. Bunker puts the conflict between the colonists and the crown into perspective, demonstrating how it was just one part of a broader crisis in the evolving global economy. The British Empire was developing too rapidly for London’s ramshackle institutions to manage or control. At the same time, British politicians largely failed to understand the dynamics of the rapidly modernizing global economy centered in London. The American revolutionaries thought they faced an efficient and tyrannical regime; in reality, overworked and underresourced British colonial administrators were so poorly informed and so badly organized that they were unable to understand, much less control, the rapid developments taking place on the other side of the Atlantic.