American Revolution


The American Revolution was a war in which the 13 American colonies won their independence from Great Britain. It started in 1775 and ended in 1783. The revolution led to the founding of a new nation, the United States of America.


Background and Causes of the War

When the first settlers came to the new world in the 17th century they were on their own.  They had to choose their own leaders and solve the problems that they faced.  Great Britain was not really interested in the colonists and, in addition, faced problems at home too.

In the middle of the 18th century Britain defeated France in a war that spread to the New World. Britain’s victory gave it control over most of the territories in North America. They ruled the New World from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. However fighting against France cost a lot of money and the British government decided that the colonies in America should also pay for this war.

Colonists were angry at the British rulers, not only because they wanted more money from them, but because they also forbade them to settle in areas west of the Appalachian Mountains. These regions were reserved for the Indians, whom the British did not want to make angry



After the end of the war with France Great Britain started to make the colonists pay more money in the form of taxes. One of these laws, the Stamp Act, put a tax on documents and newspapers. The colonists got even angrier because they were not represented in British parliament and had no way of expressing their ideas. They wanted to be treated in a fair way and believed they had certain rights that others should respect.

At the beginning of the 1770s Great Britain sent soldiers to keep order in the American colonies. While many tax laws were abolished a tax on tea remained. In 1773 colonists, disguised as Indians, went aboard British ships and dumped all the tea into the harbour of Boston. This event became known as the Boston Tea Party.

During the 1770s the relationship between Britain and the colonies became worse. The settlers started boycotting everything that the British wanted to sell to them.


The beginning of the war

In 1775 the colonists decided that they had had enough of British rule. They got ready to fight.  American soldiers fought the first battle of the war at Lexington, Massachusetts.  In the next few months the Americans formed their own army under the leadership of George Washington.

Not all the colonists were in favour of going to war against the British. Those who wanted to stay with Great Britain were called loyalists; those who were in favour of independence were called patriots.

The American colonies were not prepared for war. They were not united and had no central government. As soon as the war stared delegates of all 13 colonies formed a national congress, at which they met.



Declaration of Independence

More and more colonists became convinced that they could not rely on Great Britain to solve their problems. They wanted to be free and govern themselves.  On July 4, 1776 the signing of the Declaration of Independence made the colonies an independent country.


Main Battles of the War

During the early part of the war the British army won major battles because they were better equipped and had more firepower. However, on Christmas night, 1776, George Washington’s army won important battles in Trenton and Princeton New Jersey.

In October 1777, The Battle of Saratoga brought an important victory for the colonists.  France decided to send ships and soldiers to the New World to help the colonists in their fight against their long-time enemy, the British.

The winter months were very difficult for George Washington and his men. They had little food to eat and suffered from illnesses. But in the end they proved to be the better fighters and defeated the British army in major battles. Thousands of African American slaves also fought for the colonists.

Britain, on the other side, was faced with having to transport soldiers and weapons over thousands of kilometres.



American Victory and Peace Treaty

In the final years of the war fighting focused on the southern colonies. In 1781 British soldiers were defeated by Americans and the French in Yorktown, Virginia. The British surrendered and signed a peace treaty with the Americans in Paris.


Changes in society

Although over 7000 American soldiers died in the Revolutionary War, independence brought along many changes in American society. Prosperity and growth in a vast new country began.
About 25% of all the slaves were freed. The northern states abolished slavery altogether.
A written constitution, which went into effect in 1789, gave the new country a set of laws and its people political and religious freedom.


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  • abolish = do away with; get rid of
  • act = here: law
  • although = while
  • Appalachian Mountains = long range of mountains along the eastern coast of America
  • battle = a fight in a war
  • boycott = here: to stop buying something from someone else
  • century = a hundred years
  • colony = an area that is under the political control of a bigger, more powerful country
  • constitution = basic set of laws that a country is organized by
  • convince = to feel that something is true
  • defeat = win against
  • delegate = representative
  • disguise = dress in clothes that are not yours, so that nobody knows who you are
  • dump = throw
  • equip = provide, supply
  • express = say
  • firepower = weapons, guns
  • focus = concentrate on
  • forbid-forbade-forbidden =  not allow
  • founding = the start of something new
  • go into effect = here: become reality
  • govern = rule
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • growth =  expansion; here: becoming bigger
  • harbour = place where ships stay to load and unload goods
  • however = but
  • illness = disease
  • in addition = also
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • independence = freedom, liberty
  • keep order = to stop people from fighting and keep towns and villages safe
  • law = rules of a country
  • leadership = control, command
  • long-time = for a long time
  • major = important
  • national congress = here: parliament with representatives from all colonies
  • peace treaty = an official document ending a war
  • prepared = ready
  • prosperity = wealth , richness
  • prove = here: it was a fact; it was true
  • relationship = connection
  • rely = trust, depend on
  • remain = stay
  • represent = to speak and decide things for someone
  • reserve = to keep for someone
  • respect = here: not to break the law
  • rights = things that you are legally allowed to do
  • rule = govern, control
  • ruler = a person who is in control of a country
  • settler = someone who goes to country where not many people have gone before, in order to live and work there
  • sign = to put your name on a document
  • slave = person who is owned by someone else and works for them for little or no money
  • society = people in general
  • spread = move to
  • suffer = to feel pain
  • surrender = give up
  • tax = money you must pay to the government and which the government spends for many services
  • territory = land
  • treat = behave towards someone
  • united = joined together
  • vast = very big, great
  • victory = win
  • weapons = guns and other objects you need to fight with
  • while = although, as