Rick Atkinson, Author of The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777
Historian Rick Atkinson discusses his new historical trilogy on the American Revolution, the enduring lessons from the early battles of that war and the key figures at the center of the fight – from George Washington to King George III.
On lessons from the American Revolution: “We’re an idealistic people and that’s one of the heartening things about it. I think that strain runs through American history, even though sometimes it’s a little hard to detect in a country of 330 million as opposed to two-and-a-half million in 1775. Yes, they have a very clear sense that this country can be something and that it requires extricating themselves from the British Empire… and they have a very clear sense of individual autonomy – that you’re basically controlling your own destiny for better or for worse.”
On George Washington’s role in the early battles: “That understanding of the mystical bond between leader and led … is vitally important, and he’s [had] to learn that. That’s part of what we’re going to see in the first couple of years of the war – is for him to know this in his bones. And it happens. It happens slowly. It’s ugly sometimes, but it does evolve into this relationship.”