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Author Talks: Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth

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Historian Holger Hoock in conversation with Lapham's Quarterly founder and editor, Lewis Lapham.

When we think of the American Revolution, we think of brave patriots coming together to resist a tyrannical ruler in defense of noble ideals. It’s a stirring narrative, one the Founders did their best to encourage after the war. The truth, Holger Hoock argues, is far more complex: the Revolution was not only a high-minded battle over principles; it was also a profoundly violent civil war—one that shaped the nation in ways we have only begun to understand.

In Scars of Independence, Hoock writes the violence back into the story. American Patriots tortured Loyalists and imprisoned them in Connecticut mines; British troops massacred enemy soldiers, raped colonial women, and crowded half-starving prisoners on disease-ridden ships. Both sides conscripted African-Americans, who suffered disproportionately as soldiers and slaves, and Washington’s army waged a genocidal campaign against the Iroquois nation.

Hoock, whose work was in part supported by a New York Public Library Short-Term Research Fellowship, will speak with Lewis Lapham about the true story behind the Revolution that has for centuries been whitewashed. Scars of Independence forces a more honest appraisal, and in so doing, presents a new origin story that will spark debate for years to come.

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