Most Americans look at the Revolutionary period almost entirely in terms of the thoughts and actions of the Americans, with Britain playing the role of the faceless enemy intent on oppressing America, depriving them of their rights, even enslaving them, forcing the freedom-loving colonists into rebellion despite their love for the mother country. But in this image of the Revolution, very little attention is paid to the British perspective. There might be a basic understanding of what the British government did, but no real idea of they did it. Didn’t taxes figure into things somehow? And of course no one likes the tax man. So it was a crushing tax burden that drove the colonists to rebel, right? Well, sort of.Was Britain the Evil Empire, or just the Inept Empire – or maybe the Ignorant Empire? Did England lose America because of a sinister British plot to deprive the colonists of their rights, or because of mistakes made out of indifference and arrogance?
What was the nature of the British government in the second half of the 18th century? How did this government function – or not function, in some cases? How did the different elements of government interact, and how did this interaction affect the workings of the government? Despite the common perception of Britain as the birthplace of modern democracy, did democracy play a significant role in the function of the British government?
Although the British government had permanent organizations and ministries, and was therefore a “professional” organization, were the men who ran it professional politicians and bureaucrats? What background, training, or education in the affairs of government did those who ran it have? How did this affect the workings of that government? What was the primary function of that government? How did men become members of that government?Americans tend to assume that American colonial affairs were the top priority, or at least a major one, for the British government in the period between the Seven Years War and the outbreak of the Revolution. Was this true? Why did colonial American affairs have the relative importance they did for the British government? How knowledgeable were those who ran the British government about American affairs, and how did that knowledge, or lack of it, affect their judgment and decisions? If there was a lack of knowledge about American affairs, why then did those concerned not take advantage of the various colonial representatives or former colonial officials to remedy that lack – or even visit the colonies themselves?How would you characterize the British government’s management of American affairs, before and during the Revolution? What factors controlled the perception of that government towards the colonies, and how they were run, and later, how the war was fought? Was there a coherent overall strategy that was followed, or were the British “making it up as they went along”?