James L. Stokesbury offers one of the most readable concise histories of the War for Independence in his A Short History of the American Revolution. As in any concise history, the events and figures lack the detail one sees in longer histories, but enough is there to offer an entertaining read and a well-rounded picture of the war. (Did you know that Americans tried to invade Canada?) However, the figures involved on the British side of the conflict, especially King George III, Lord North, and the important generals, are more fleshed out than in the other histories I have read. The other two things this history does well is place the American Revolution in its global context–it became part of a worldwide war–and describe the politics surrounding the struggle.
Though this book was published in 1991, Stokesbury very much had the Vietnam War in mind as he wrote it. One tends to think of the American War for Independence as a series of American triumphs which forced the British to sue for peace. Stokesbury does not deny the importance of these victories in bringing England to the negotiating table–especially the Battle of Yorktown, but he avers that breaking England’s political will to fight was more important than military victories. After all, England and their Tory allies won many battles, but could not bring the patriots to surrender. Also, the long struggle involved pro-American, anti-war members of parliament overcoming the resistance posed by the members loyal to King George III, who waged the war as a matter of principle. Then again, the Indian atrocities committed against patriots and settlers remind one of the barbarities of the Viet Cong.
However, the comparisons end there. Unlike the Vietnamese, the patriots actually won battles. (The Vietnam War might be the only in history where the losing side never lost a battle.) Also, the major powers in Europe rose against England either by declaring war against them (France, Spain, and the Netherlands) or enforcing free trade with their navies and denying England naval supplies (Russia, Denmark, and Sweden). England fought this war without allies, and her navies and armies had to protect several important zones and colonies. These conditions made further prosecution of the war foolish and brought England to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which was not a bad deal for the English and firmly established American independence.
So, this book recommends itself to people who wish to brush up on their history of the American War for Independence and to learn about the worldwide nature of it.