The Men Who Lost America: A Lecture By Professor Andrew O’Shaughnessy

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Date(s) - 13/02/2017
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

This lecture is jointly hosted by the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War and the Georgian Papers Programme, and supported by funds from the Sons of the American Revolution.

Date: 13th February 2017
Time: 18:30-19:30
Location: Great Hall, Strand, King’s College London
Register for a free ticket here.

The surrender of the British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, on October 17, 1777, by John Trumbull (1821)

The loss of America was a stunning and unexpected defeat for the powerful British Empire. Common wisdom has held that incompetent military commanders and political leaders must have been to blame, but were they? Weaving together the personal stories of ten prominent men who directed the British dimension of the war, Andrew O’Shaughnessy dispels the incompetence myth and uncovers the real reasons that rebellious colonials were able to achieve their surprising victory.


Andrew O’Shaughnessy is the Vice President of Monticello, the Saunders Director of the Robert H.Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello) andProfessor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000) and The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of Empire (Yale UP, 2013), among other works) which won eight national awards including the George Washington Book Prize and the New York Historical Society Book Prize for American History.

Professor O’Shaughnessy is The Sons of the American Revolution Visiting Professor in the Georgian Papers Programme at King’s for 2016- 17.

Sir Michael Howard Centre KCL

In the 1960s the distinguished historian Sir Michael Howard had a vision for a new kind of history of war. It would be studied in all its complexity and seek also to examine how war affected history in general. Michael Howard founded the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and went on to become Regius Professor of Modern History of the University of Oxford and Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University. Inspired by this ambitious agenda, the study of the history of war has flourished at King’s College London. It now has more historians studying war than any other comparable institution, not only in the Department of War Studies, but also in the Departments of History, and of Defence Studies, and indeed many others, for example the English Department. To make more visible and strengthen this remarkable concentration of effort the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War has been established under Department of War Studies and the Department of History. It aims to promote the scholarly history of war in all its dimensions, to train research students and to host research projects and conferences. It also runs a flourishing MA in the History of War. Our aim is to promote the study of the history of war from the ancient world to the recent past, dealing not just with the history of all the armed services but also of all involved in warfare. War has been a central feature of human history which requires study by historians working in many traditions and fields. We aim also to study the history of war from many historiographical vantage points, from economic history to cultural history, from international history to the history of science and technology. The Centre takes advantage of existing strengths such as the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives. At its heart is a resident community of over fifty nationally and internationally recognised authorities in the fields of military, naval, imperial and international history and related fields based in the Departments of War Studies, History and Defence Studies. The Centre was officially launched on 4 August 2014 – the centenary of Britain’s entry into the Great War.

Sons of the American Revolution

The Sons of the American Revolution is an historical, educational, and patriotic, non-profit corporation whose members are direct descendants of the men and women who supported the cause of American Independence during the years 1774-1783.

The National Society of the Sons of the Revolution is collaborating with King’s College London to sponsor three visiting professorships at the College and hosted by various departments. Visiting Professors will work on their own research and will be invited to lead an academic seminar or series of seminars on the interpretation of the archive in relation to their own work. They will also be available to staff of the Georgian Papers Programme for consultation about interpretation and dissemination.

Georgian Papers Programme

On April 1, 2015 the Georgian Papers Programme was launched at Windsor Castle in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. A collaboration between King’s College London, founded by George IV, and the Royal Collection Trust, the Programme aims to digitize, disseminate, and interpret an extraordinarily rich collection of materials, including correspondence, maps, and royal household ledgers.

The project will include the digitisation of all the historic manuscripts from the Georgian period, totalling more than 350,000 pages, of which only about 15% have previously been published. While the vast majority of the collection comprises papers from George III, papers from Kings George I, George II, George IV and William IV will also be made available.

It is hoped that the work will transform the understanding of Georgian Britain and its monarchy, at a time of profound cultural, political, economic and social change which created the modern nation.