To Begin the World over Again


To Begin the World over Again: How the American Revolution Devastated the Globe

By Matthew Lockwood

Published by Yale University Press, 2019

Print length 512 pages


An audio version of this review is available at

About the Author

Matthew Lockwood is assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama.

About the Book

The first exploration of the profound and often catastrophic impact the American Revolution had on the rest of the world.

While the American Revolution led to domestic peace and liberty, it ultimately had a catastrophic global impact — it strengthened the British Empire and led to widespread persecution and duress. From the opium wars in China to anti-imperial rebellions in Peru to the colonization of Australia — the inspirational impact the American success had on fringe uprisings was outweighed by the influence it had on the tightening fists of oppressive world powers.

Here Matthew Lockwood presents, in vivid detail, the neglected story of this unintended revolution. It sowed the seeds of collapse for the preeminent empires of the early modern era, setting the stage for the global domination of Britain, Russia, and the United States. Lockwood illuminates the forgotten stories and experiences of the communities and individuals who adapted to this new world in which the global balance of power had been drastically altered.

The book’s Contents include an Introduction and 13 chapters. 

Its chapter titles are:

Introduction: The World the American Revolution Made

1 The Revolution Comes to Britain

2 Treason, Terror, and Reaction

3 Revolution, Reaction, and Sectarianism in Ireland

4 Horatio Nelson and the Imperial Struggle in Spanish America

5 Revolt and Revolution in the Spanish Empire

6 European Weakness and the Russian Conquest of the Crimea

7 Conflict and Captivity in India

8 The Birth of British India

9 Convict Empire

10 Exiles of Revolution

11 Africa, Abolition, and Empire

12 Opium and Empire

13 The Dawn of the Century of Humiliation

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Stella Tillyard, author of Aristocrats, says, “A stunning narrative about the violent aftershocks of the American Revolution.  Lockwood shows how the American revolution set off a global war in its own image that carried revolutionary violence and imperial repression not only to Europe but also to South America, India, Australia and Africa. His book movingly portrays the consequences for indigenous and subject peoples all over the globe, including those in the new United States.”

James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom, says, “In an apt metaphor, Matthew Lockwood likens the American Revolution to a stone cast into a pond, creating a splash whose ripples radiated outward to shake up the whole world.  In addition to inspiring an “age of democratic revolutions” in France and Latin America, the wartime alliance with France caused a domino effect of warfare between Britain and several European powers that reverberated as far away as India.  And in response to the loss of its American colonies, Britain reorganized and expanded imperial expansion elsewhere until the sun truly did not set on the empire.  Lockwood untangles this complex story in a tour de force of historical scholarship.”