Liberty's Exiles: Book summary and reviews of Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff

Liberty's Exiles

American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

By Maya Jasanoff

Liberty's Exiles

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Book Summary

At the end of the American Revolution, sixty thousand Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. This groundbreaking book offers the first global history of the loyalist exodus to Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, and beyond. Following extraordinary journeys like the one of Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who led her growing family to Britain, Jamaica, and Canada, questing for a home; black loyalists such as David George, who escaped from slavery in Virginia and went on to found Baptist congregations in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone; and Mohawk Indian leader Joseph Brant, who tried to find autonomy for his people in Ontario, Liberty’s Exiles challenges conventional understandings about the founding of the United States and the shaping of the post-revolutionary world.

Based on original research on four continents, this book is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative new analysis—a story about the past that helps us think about migration, tolerance, and liberty in the world today.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2012

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This superb study of a little-known episode in American and British history is remiss only in largely ignoring the Loyalist community in Spanish West Florida and the War of 1812 as a continuation of the earlier conflict." - Publishers Weekly

"Combining compelling narrative with insightful analysis, Jasanoff has produced a work that is both distinct in perspective and groundbreaking in its originality. Strongly recommended for both students of the Revolutionary Atlantic world and British Empire generalists." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Splendidly researched, sensibly argued and compassionately told." - Kirkus Reviews

"Losers seldom get to write the history, but the American loyalists have at last got their historian with Maya Jasanoff...No one has told this story before, and Jasanoff tells it with uncommon style and grace." - Joseph J. Ellis

"[We] have had to wait too long for a history of the Loyalists who fought against the American Revolution, and lost....I can think of few books published in the past thirty years that shed more brilliant and revelatory light on the events of the revolutionary era than Liberty’s Exiles. It is more than just a work of first-class scholarship on a par with Linda Colley’s Britons. It is a deeply moving masterpiece that fulfils the historian’s most challenging ambition: to revivify past experience." - Niall Ferguson

"Liberty's Exiles is a book which in scope and originality, global reach and research, intellectual curiosity and sheer provocative panache-- upturning in its wake whole applecarts of unchallenged assumptions-- can sustain comparison with Linda Colley or the young Simon Schama. The truth is that Maya Jasanoff is not just a very good writer, an indefatigable researcher and a fine historian, she is also a bit of a genius." - William Dalrymple

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Maya Jasanoff was educated at Harvard, Cambridge, and Yale, and is currently an associate professor of history at Harvard University. Her first book, Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750–1850, was awarded the 2005 Duff Cooper Prize and was a book of the year selection in numerous publications including The Economist, The Guardian, and The Sunday Times (London). She has recently been a fellow of the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the American Council of Learned Societies and has contributed essays to the London Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Review of Books.

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