Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Winner of the 2018 Harry M. Ward Book Prize

Larrie D. Ferreiro, Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016).

How important were the French and Spanish to the success of the American Revolution?  VERY, is the conclusion of 2018 Harry M. Ward Prize-winning author Larrie D. Ferreiro.  In his superb Brothers at Arms (a Pulitzer Prize finalist) Ferreiro makes an overwhelming case.  When the first shots of the War for Independence rang out, the patriots had no army, no navy, no common currency, no diplomatic standing, little manufacturing capacity, and little in the way of powder and the other sinews of war—and thus little hope against the far-superior military, political, and financial resources of the British Empire.  The Americans also lived in a world generally hostile to republics. So why did the French and Spanish help?  Ferreiro explains the complex international political scene that saw the two monarchies unite with the nascent republic in an alliance of convenience, each ally fighting Britain with its own agenda.  As Brothers at Arms shows, the alliance was decisive.  Together the French and Spanish (although during the war Spain, unlike France, never officially recognized the United States) covertly and overtly provided the modern equivalent of billions of dollars in direct financial aid, loans, arms, and matériel.  They also committed thousands of troops and ships against Britain in theaters around the globe, and they provided vital diplomatic support. “Instead of viewing the American Revolution in isolation,” as one reviewer has nicely put it, “Brothers at Arms reveals the birth of the American nation as the centerpiece of an international coalition fighting against a common enemy.”  No other historian has dealt so well with this complex and fascinating story--this an important book.

--Mark Lender

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