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Why did Britain lose the war over America's independence?

  1. Jul 5, 2010 #1
    Why did Britain lose the war over America's independence???

    Yesterday was independance day and it got me wondering why Britain losed the war for American independance. I've never really heard the full story behind it, at the time the British empire had the most powerful military ever known so it confuses me to how the American colonists won.

    Any ideas???
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2010 #2
    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    They got tea abstinence after their tea was dumped into the ocean.
     
  4. Jul 5, 2010 #3
    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Basically it was because of the support from the french and different war tactics that the army had never seen before. Sort of like guerrilla war but with muskets.
     
  5. Jul 5, 2010 #4

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    That is a premise of doubtful accuracy.

    The East India Company, for example, was a private enterprise, with its own fleet&mercenaries, not a compliant extension of the British Crown. The British state didn't take the reins of India before the establishment of the Raj in 1857 or so.

    Thus, that the British Crown had a lot of resources is something that has to be shown, rather than assumed.
     
  6. Jul 5, 2010 #5
    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    I think the Americans cheated:mad::biggrin:
     
  7. Jul 5, 2010 #6

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Besides, Norwegian claims to superiority over those lands have been consistently ignored for 1000 years. USA and Canada are Norwegian lands we have not granted independence.

    Have no fears, though, we are working towards a, preferably, diplomatic solution to this injustice.
     
  8. Jul 5, 2010 #7

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    :rofl: Happy 4th, arildno!
     
  9. Jul 5, 2010 #8

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    The same to you, Astronuc!
    I do nourish hopes, though, to convert you to celebrate the 17th of May instead..:devil:
     
  10. Jul 5, 2010 #9
    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    I thought it was because the British wore bright red with a white X marks the spot.
     
  11. Jul 5, 2010 #10

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Yes - the red coats did make it easier to spot targets.
     
  12. Jul 5, 2010 #11

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    I'll put it on my calendar for next year and there after. :biggrin: Allow me to wish you a belated Happy 17th of May, National Day of Norway! :approve:

    FGI -
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Norway#Writing_the_constitution
     
  13. Jul 5, 2010 #12
    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Because, they were unable to match the colonist's cajones level.
     
  14. Jul 5, 2010 #13

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    On a lighter note, dispensing for the moment with serious discussion of the crucial political importance of testicle size (thanks to AUK), it is worth noting that as a result of the all-european seven-years war, Britain was a victor of sorts (1755-62), but with a drained treasury (France was also ruined).
    ONe of the British Crown's attempts to fill the coffers was to introduce revenue-raising schemes like the Stamp Act, that fuelled the ire of the colonists in the Americas.
    Previously, taxation had been fairly light, as an inducement for colonization, I think.
    The political balance that the colonists had minimal political representation, but also minimal taxation level, was upset by these tax-raising schemes the Crown regarded as necessary.
    Thus, that the British Crown had huge resources to set in against the Americans is fairly doubtful, and coupled with a natural hesitancy to be swift&severe towards "fellow Britons" (in contrast, say, with British behaviour in India) made the British reaction against the independence movement rather feeble.
     
  15. Jul 5, 2010 #14

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Adding to arildno's comments, I think there were a number of factors, including geography (the British Empire was over extended), economics, politics (the American colonists were highly motivated to break political ties), and military (strategic and tactical).

    An interesting backstory - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War

    England experienced its own internal and local turmoil, as did the continental powers. The 17th and 18th centuries were marked by rapidly changing political situations. The traditional regal/imperial systems were being replaced by more democratic systems.

    Interesting point here - " . . . with estimates of 10,000 prisoners not surviving or not returning home (8,000 captured during and immediately after the Battle of Worcester were deported to New England, Bermuda and the West Indies to work for landowners as indentured labourers."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Civil_War#Casualties

    England's legal system was rather harsh. Small infractions of civil or criminal law were met with deportation, and in the extreme, captial punishment (execution). People who escaped to the colonies were certainly not bound to the system.

    Don't forget, Canada, Australia and New Zealand eventually established some sort of indepedence from England.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2010
  16. Jul 5, 2010 #15

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Yes, we cannot underestimate that:
    1. THe Americans had reached a level of prosperity, and hence, a level of self-confidence that made alternative political arrangements thinkable.

    2. The Enlightenment movement, with its ideas of popular control of the government made the yoke of the far-away Government seem much more onerous than when the King was, for all practical matters, a deified figure.

    The Civil War certainly removed some of the glamour around the King, but it can't be regarded as a major direct factor, I think, for developments a century later.
     
  17. Jul 5, 2010 #16

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    There was a confluence of socio-political trends.

    One aspect of the Civil War was the depletion of the King's treasury, and I don't believe the royal treasury really recovered. It also put pressure on the social system, which was quite punitive, which IMO eroded the social fabric.

    I think it also interesting the impact of sending 'criminals' to the colonies. Once they served their indenture, they were free, and certainly were not supportive of the crown or the crowns institutions in the colonies.

    I prefer to look at history as a continuum in which all upstream effects determine to some extent what happens downstream.

    Had the kings (and queens) (English in the case at hand) behaved differently, history could/would have been quite different.
     
  18. Jul 5, 2010 #17

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Well, Australia was the archetypical prison convict colony of Britain, whereas the Americas were not.
    Australia is still part of the Commonwealth, and real political independence came there much later than for the US.

    Petty thiefs do not make great leaders (not even for each other!), but landholders and puritan preachers do..

    So, although I agree that history must be understood along numerous time-scales, I remain doubtful if colonies of convicts are breeding grounds for effective independence movements.

    It is an interesting assertion, though, that deserves an empirical examination.
     
  19. Jul 5, 2010 #18

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    The transport of convicts to Australia ramped up after England lost the American colonies. :biggrin:

    Also, many (most?) landholders who supported the crown, lost their land.

    I'll have to find Howard Zinn's book A People's History of the United States, in which he discusses the nature of the Americal population, including the large portion of indentured servants. It wasn't all landholders and Puritans. The Puritans were a relatively small group in the colonies, although they were very influential in the Massachusetts colony, and perhaps Rhode Island.

    Also, I'd imagine that service in the British Army and British Navy was also harsh, so they British military were not as motivated as were the colonists. I have to wonder about the levels of conscription in both the army and navy.

    And the styles of military leadership were an important factor as well. Had England won key battles, England might have re-asserted itself, but perhaps only for a time. I think it inevitable that the US developed - given the set of unique circumstances.
     
  20. Jul 5, 2010 #19
    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    The American colonist were fighting for their freedom, while the British military were being paid to fight for the Crown.
     
  21. Jul 5, 2010 #20

    Astronuc

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Interesting points here from a geopolitical/military perspective.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_Density_in_the_American_Colonies_1775.gif
    Note that the Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and West Florida colonies were divided later as part of the US.

    from - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War

    Now it's interesting to consider that the English in Canada did not rebel and join the 'Americans'.
     
  22. Jul 5, 2010 #21

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    And a major reason why they fought for their freedom, was that they were freer just prior to the revolt than at earlier times, where freedom fighting was simply..unthinkable.

    Once an oppressive regime loosens its reins, people will revolt against their "beneficent"leaders.
    The most recent example of that is the dissulotion of the Soviet Union&satelite states.

    Gorbachev had no intention to let the communist party lose control, but his perestrojka&glasnost policies undermined the regime's effective ability to squash a revolt.

    Deng Xiao Ping understood that; therefore, the massacre at Tian-Anmen Square in 1989, was, partywise, a success, although it was a moral horror.
     
  23. Jul 5, 2010 #22

    turbo

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    British policies backfired on them. They forced all able-bodied adult men to serve in militias, so that all the men had at least rudimentary military training and shooting skills. Those who were deployed to fight the French and their Indian allies in wilderness areas also picked up guerrilla fighting skills that the British regulars and their commanders lacked. When the colonists decided to arm themselves, they went to their militia armories and did so. The French helped with more arms, including the durable and field-tested Charleville musket.

    One fellow that I had researched quite thoroughly was in his forties at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. He was Lt. John Bridge of Massachusetts colony. Before the war, he had participated in military campaigns against the French in Nova Scotia and the upper Hudson valley, among others. Britain's reliance on militia (instead of a large standing army) created a pool of highly-skilled men that could assemble quickly and blend back into the populace easily.
     
  24. Jul 5, 2010 #23

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    Interesting!
    The colonists can hardly be called extremely oppressed if the brits chose to rely upon them militia-wise.
    Besides, a militia system do not drain the financial resources out of the civilian population in the way that a large, professional army would..
     
  25. Jul 5, 2010 #24

    turbo

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    The British had some pretty heavy-handed trade policies that favored their industries and their chartered trading companies. For instance, their ships would return to England heavily-laden, but on the way back to the colonies, there was usually not much in the way of massive cargo, so the ships had to be heavily ballasted. For that reason, colonists were forbidden from firing their own bricks, and had to buy them from the British, who needed to ballast their ships with something very heavy anyway. The same story with cobblestones, IIR. Lots of Boston and much of the Old Port (Portland ME) were paved with cobblestones that the colonists had to buy from the shippers.

    For generations, the British counted on the loyalty of the colonists to protect the interests of the Crown, but there were some good reasons to expect a rebellion. Taxes on paper, tea, etc have often been cited as driving the popularity of the rebellion, but there were many more inequalities that underlaid the peoples' unhappiness with the king. If the king's foresters marked a tree on your property with a "broad arrow" you were forbidden to cut it down. It was intended to be used for masts or spars for the British navy. Eastern white pine is an ideal wood for such purposes, and the colonists lost a great deal of income by being forbidden to harvest and export the wood.
     
  26. Jul 5, 2010 #25

    arildno

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    Re: Why did Britain lose the war over Americas independance???

    When did many of these regulations come into effect?

    Those I knew of, like the Stamp Act seemed to be a direct result of the financial disasters of the Seven Years' War.

    If many of these regulations existed prior to that, I really need to re-think what I wrote..
     
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