Books: Revolution!

The tale of slaves who sided with Britain in 1776

The formula for writing a successful book about the American Revolution is no mystery. Choose a Founding Father--Washington, Hamilton, Adams--venerate him for a few hundred pages, and in no time you're on the best-seller list. O.K., it's not that simple, but you get the picture. Patriotic content equals readership appeal.

With Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution (Ecco; 475 pages), the indispensable Simon Schama (Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution) has taken a much trickier path. By choosing to tell the story of the thousands of escaped slaves who fought beside the British in the hope of...

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