From one of our most acclaimed and original colonial historians, a groundbreaking book tracing the critical "long year" of 1774 and the revolutionary change that took place from the Boston Tea Party and the First Continental Congress to the Battles of Lexington and Concord. A WALL STREET JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR In this masterly work of history, the culmination of more than four decades of research and thought, Mary Beth Norton looks at the sixteen months leading up to the clashes at Lexington and Concord in mid-April 1775. This was the critical, and often overlooked, period when colonists traditionally loyal to King George III began their discordant “discussions” that led them to their acceptance of the inevitability of war against the British Empire. Drawing extensively on pamphlets, newspapers, and personal correspondence, Norton reconstructs colonial political discourse as it took place throughout 1774. Late in the year, conservatives mounted a vigorous campaign criticizing the First Continental Congress. But by then it was too late. In early 1775, colonial governors informed officials in London that they were unable to thwart the increasing power of local committees and their allied provincial congresses. Although the Declaration of Independence would not be formally adopted until July 1776, Americans had in effect “declared independence ” even before the outbreak of war in April 1775 by obeying the decrees of the provincial governments they had elected rather than colonial officials appointed by the king. Norton captures the tension and drama of this pivotal year and foundational moment in American history and brings it to life as no other historian has done before.