American Revolutionary War

GWonline Learning & Teaching Suggestions
The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)


The American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence, spanned roughly eight years from 1775 to 1783. The primary combatants were the Kingdom of Great Britain and its thirteen North American colonies. In 1778 and 1779, France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic also became involved in the conflict. Battles were fought not just in Northeastern America, but also the Caribbean islands, part of the Indian sub-continent, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The American Revolutionary War is considered by some historians to be one of the earliest examples of an anti-colonial struggle. After its expensive victory in the Seven Years War (1756-63), better known in North America as the French and Indian War (1754–63), the British monarchy had increasing financial problems, which it tried to solve with a higher tax rate on the colonies, which stoked resistance. Growing constitutional and political differences strained the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain and fueled the resentment that led to the American Revolution. The protests of the American patriots against taxation without representation followed the Stamp Act and escalated into boycotts, which culminated in 1773 with the destruction of a shipment of tea in Boston Harbor by the secret revolutionary society of the “Sons of Liberty”. In return Britain closed Boston Harbor and passed a series of punitive measures against the Province of Massachusetts Bay Colony, a British crown colony. Massachusetts colonists responded with the “Suffolk Resolves”, a declaration made on 9 September 1774 by the leaders of Suffolk County in Massachusetts. The declaration rejected the Massachusetts Government Act and resolved to boycott imported goods from Britain unless and until the Acts were repealed. They established a shadow government which wrested control of the countryside from the Crown. Twelve colonies formed the first Continental Congress (with the exception of Georgia) in September and October 1774 to coordinate their resistance, establishing committees and conventions that effectively seized power from Great Brita.

The war began on 19 April 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord and ended on 3 September 1783 with the Peace of Paris. Many of the war’s battles have become important to contemporary American national memory, including Bunker Hill (June 1775), Valley Forge (Dec.1777–June 1778), and Yorktown (Sept.–Oct. 1781). The loss of life in the conflict is somewhat difficult to ascertain, although some estimates put American losses anywhere from 25,000 to 70,000, in addition to perhaps 43,000 British casualties. Many of those that died succumbed to disease, as was common in that period, including typhus fever and smallpox. The consequences of the American Revolutionary War were profound. Great Britain lost a group of major colonies, the American Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 would serve as a model to many other societies who would later fight their own wars of independence, and the European wars served to further entrench the Anglo-French rivalry that would engender an even greater level of destruction throughout the subsequent French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

For basic information see the Wikipedia page on the American Revolutionary War.


Selected Suggestions for Learning & Teaching

Introductory Readings

Book Chapters and Journal Articles

General  Literature 

Literature on Gender & War

Methodological Introductions

Websites with Timelines and Maps

Websites with Primary Sources

Women's Autobiographies

Documentaries and Movies


All linked titles of introductory readings, autobiographies, websites, documentaries and movies are connected to an entry in GWonline that provides an abstract and additional information.