Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff
American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

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Synopsis

On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and their families be safe? Facing grave doubts about their futures, some sixty thousand loyalists—one in forty members of the American population—decided to leave their homes and become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire. They sailed for Britain, for Canada, for Jamaica, and for the Bahamas; some ventured as far as Sierra Leone and India. Wherever they went, the voyage out of America was a fresh beginning, and it carried them into a dynamic if uncertain new world.

A groundbreaking history of the revolutionary era, Liberty’s Exiles tells the story of this remarkable global diaspora. Through painstaking archival research and vivid storytelling, award-winning historian Maya Jasanoff re-creates the journeys of ordinary individuals whose lives were overturned by extraordinary events. She tells of refugees like Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who spent nearly thirty years as a migrant, searching for a home in Britain, Jamaica, and Canada. And of David George, a black preacher born into slavery, who found freedom and faith in the British Empire, and eventually led his followers to seek a new Jerusalem in Sierra Leone. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant resettled his people under British protection in Ontario, while the adventurer William Augustus Bowles tried to shape a loyalist Creek state in Florida. For all these people and more, it was the British Empire—not the United States—that held the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet as they dispersed across the empire, the loyalists also carried things from their former homes, revealing an enduring American influence on the wider British world.

Ambitious, original, and personality-filled, Liberty’s Exiles is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative new analysis—a book that explores an unknown dimension of America’s founding to illuminate the meanings of liberty itself.



From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Maya Jasanoff

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Maya Jasanoff was educated at Harvard, Cambridge, and Yale and is currently assistant professor of British history at the University of Virginia. This is her first book. "From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published February 15, 2011 by Vintage. 480 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Liberty's Exiles

Kirkus Reviews

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The lower classes, however, including the American Indians and African-Americans who had sided with the British, found their lives shattered and their futures bleak.

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The New York Times

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Meanwhile, 2,000 free blacks, dissatisfied with their opportunities in Nova Scotia, demanded and received transportation by the British government to Sierra Leone, where they became the founding generation of the African colony that was established there by British abolitionists.

Apr 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

The Guardian

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It cannot have occurred to many American loyalists in November 1783 that they were fortunate people.

Feb 19 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

The Wall Street Journal

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A 19th-century view of Freetown in Sierra Leone, the first British settler colony in Africa.

Feb 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

The Wall Street Journal

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The uncertainties of the postwar period and the determination of the British government not to burn all boats with the new regime meant that loyalists who fled in hopes of a new life in Florida were made homeless twice over when that territory was returned to Spain at the peace settlement.

Feb 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

The Telegraph

this was an empire suffused with national pride, and an empire that seemed able to heal the breaches of war with the US”.

Feb 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

Christian Science Monitor

(February) 15 promising titles for early 2011 National Book Awards: the 2011 fiction nominees 15 best nonfiction books of 2011: CSMonitor picks View all lists

Jan 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

Dallas News

Then, on Nov. 25, 1783, the last redcoats of the occupying army were rowed out to the transports in New York harbor to sail home.“Evacuation Day” marked the end of seven years of the turmoil of war for all but the 75,000 Americans who are the subject of this compelling history.They were the loyal...

Mar 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

The Daily Beast

Those loyal to the English king during the American Revolution have been written out of history, but Andrew Roberts says that a new book, Liberty’s Exiles, restores them to their proper place as true patriots.

Feb 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

Historical Novel Society

The American Loyalists were not the snobbish grandees of legend, but a diverse group with different motives for loyalty to the British Empire: black slaves who knew that this was the only way in which they could gain their freedom;

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Scotsman.com

The American empire constituted one of the great acts of dispossession of world history, pushing aside native Americans, the so-called Indians, destroying their cultures and economies within a century.Indeed, some of those Indians, like the Mohawks and the Creeks, had themselves been loyalists of...

Feb 07 2011 | Read Full Review of Liberty's Exiles : American L...

BBC History Magazine

This is a deeply researched and well-considered book that, without doubt, throws much new light on the development of the British empire (not to speak of the infant United States of America) in the immediate post-revolutionary war period.

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