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The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution

Ira Gruber

Copyright 1972
University of North Carolina Press

By focusing on the Howe brothers, their political connections, their relationships with the British ministry, their attitude toward the Revolution, and their military activities in America, Gruber answers the frequently asked question of why the British failed to end the American Revolution in its early years. This book supersedes earlier studies because of its broader research and because it elucidates the complex personal interplay between Whitehall and its commanders.

Originally published in 1974.

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About the Author

Ira D. Gruber is Harris Masterson Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at Rice University. From 1966 to 2009 he taught courses in early American and military history at Rice, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Army Staff College.


Let me cite only one example, though a crucial one, of what I think Gruber has achieved: the relationship between Lord Howe and Germain. As long as this relationship was examined, one might say, externally, by reference to their public correspondence, their official orders, their formal defenses after the fact, their public defenders and attackers, as long as this was done, and this is substantilaly what previous writers have done, neither Howe nor Germain could ever properly be understood—too much was concealed, too much implicit. Gruber, it is true, has not found, or attempted to find, a key to the whole character of either man, nor has he found any secret diaries or deathbed confessions. But he has, with a good deal of patience and skill, rediscovered the rules of the game they played with each other—the almost dreadful wariness, the false courtesies, the little advances and retreats, the enormous respect for each other’s power. And when this is put, as Gruber puts it, in the hazy, shimmering context of sudden moments of optimism or pessimism about the War, or the king, or the French, followed out month by month, it begins to be clear why neither Howe nor Germain could be effective in dealing with the Americans: they were too busy, as was almost everyone else in British official life from the king down, too busy playing the game that Namier resurrected.

--William H. Nelson