Liberty! The American Revolution (TV Mini-Series 1997– ) Poster

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At last, a decent US history documentary!
J-Stone-211 December 2007
Let me begin by saying I'm a Brit through and through (currently live in Japan though), and a pretty patriotic one to boot.

Even so, I loved this series, despite the fact that we were supposed to be the "enemy" and we lost.

I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of most U.S. made historical documentaries, because I usually find them lightweight, childish, naieve, biased and too focused on what I consider minor details. I can't stand most of the stuff served up on the History Channel, for example. So I wasn't expecting too much when I came across this PBS series.

But what a pleasant surprise! At the end of watching this series I felt it was on a par with anything produced in Britain and I came away with a much better understanding of the background and sequence of events during the revolutionary period.

What I liked:

1. Well paced. 6 episodes at 40 minutes each was just right I felt.

2. Nicely balanced between the U.S. and U.K. version and interpretation of events; several British historians were interviewed and they served as a good counterweight to their American counterparts.

3. In depth explanation of the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in the 13 colonies; they didn't try to put all the blame on George III or British authorities.

4. Talking heads really brought to life the letters and diaries of the men and women of that time. Far nicer than just listening to a narrator read it all out.

5. Good balance between coverage of battles and tactics with the bigger picture and strategies

6. Surprisingly impartial and fair to the British pov, considering that Americans usually have a huge uber-patriotic blind spot when it comes to this period in their history. The British weren't overly demonised or portrayed as dummies in redcoats (as was the case with awful films such as "The Patriot"). This documentary shows that terrible atrocities were committed in the name of the revolution and in the name of surpressing it. I felt this was a sign of maturity and 'closure' on the part of the makers.

7. The role the French played in securing the victory at Yorktown for the Americans was given fair prominence. The makers of this documentary seem big enough to not be mealy-mouthed about this, which makes a refreshing change from the usual myopia on this topic.

There were some fairly emotional scenes as well. Although I consider myself objective and impartial when it comes to history (I think we have to be, to attain that higher truth of which Descartes spoke), I felt surges of patriotic pride when the British army performed well (such as British army engineers scaling that mountain to secure the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga, the capture of New York, or Clinton's successful initial campaign in the American South). Conversely, I really felt sorry for "our lads" at times, being 3,000 miles from home when they were outnumbered and cut off deep in rebel territory. I hope Americans will try to understand why I feel this way... it's hard for us to be impartial all the time.

Overall, I was left with a sense of the greatness of Washington, Franklin and Jefferson. I was also pleased to learn that Cornwallis was a far better field commander than history has given him credit for and that he was badly let down by Clinton in New York.

I salute PBS and ask all Americans interested in art, culture and the pursuit of historical truth to keep supporting this wonderful institution you have. It represents the best traditions of your wonderful country.

God Bless America and God Save the Queen!
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History coming alive ...
kaaber-25 July 2007
An excellent series, absolutely riveting - bought it on DVD and saw it in two sittings. I could write miles of praise about this documentary-in-the-best-sense-of-the-word, basically based on contemporary documentation, but I will add one tiny speck of criticism; in the last-but-one episode, we almost get the impression that the British campaign in the South was supposed to lash out at the institution of slavery (there is some reference to the "All men are created equal" phrase in the Declaration of Independence being hypocritical), but of course the British could not have minded slavery in 1781 since they themselves would not abolish it for another fifty-two years. At the very end of the series, Dr. Pauline Meier puts forth a very interesting thought: that the world tends to forget its heritage from the American revolution simply because - unlike the French revolution and the Russian revolution - it succeeded. When all is said and done, this is the revolution that launched world democracy.
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Darn The Defiant
lord woodburry3 August 2003
An excellent primer on the Revolutionary War, LIBERTY is a penetrating view at the causes and motivations as well as the saga of the course of the war. It is interesting that the major source for information on the war is the writings of Sgt Martin. There's an excellent period score Da**[rn] the Defiant that's part of the opening and closing credits. Regretfully the audience for glorious cause is a pale shaddow when compared to that of the lost cause.

This compares favorably to THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (narr Charles Kuralt) and HOW THE WEST WAS LOST (Amer Indian perspective).
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A nearly first person look at The American Revolution
Patrick E. Abe13 May 2000
Extra! The Empire gets the boot in the Rim Colonies! Emperor vilified by common rabble! Imperial forces attacked by Rebel forces! Headlines from "The Tatooine Gazette"? No. The start of an experiment in self government and a war that secured no enemy territory and succeeded where later revolutions failed. With no video, film cameras, or CNN, how does one make the world of 1763 real? By having actors read from speeches and papers of the principal movers and shakers of the day. The actors are to be commended for fleshing out long-dead historical figures, especially "King George III" and "Maj. Gen. Burgoyne." It is an interesting journey, as the American colonists change over time from respectful subjects of King George III to concerned tax rebels, an aroused militia, committee members drafting petitions, to "Common Sense" citizens seeking Independence. This series deserves the DVD treatment, with behind the scenes sections about the many reenacters and preservation societies that show how the world of John and Abigail Adams worked/works. A&E's look at the same subject used paintings and voiceovers to cover the same ground, but Ken Burns' "The Civil War" had photographic impact that oils couldn't capture. I hope that PBS will broadcast this soon, or as a July 4th special for those who missed it the first time.
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A fantastic portrayal of the Enlightenment's climax
Platypus527 December 2009
It is safe to say that the American Revolution was the pinnacle of the Enlightenment. There, all the ideas the philosophes had proposed were put to the test. They passed the test. I don't mean to sound nationalistic to non-Americans, but I do feel this way.

We live in a very cynical time period. We are cynical about our governments, cynical about our past, and cynical about humanity in general. Yes, cynicism is good, but we should also keep in mind how far we have come. I am a history buff, yet I am going to say this: History needs its heros, for without them, it has no meaning to our inner selves. The documentary reminds us of how far we have come.

Yes, "Liberty: The American Revolution" could have had more facts in it, but that is minor. What amazes me is how it was able to show the ultimate goodness in the revolution, yet did so without making anyone a villain. The British are not shown as evil, just as being on the wrong side of history.

Another thing I liked was how the documentary had no dialogue that wasn't historically spoken. Everything the characters said was taken from letters, interviews, and so forth.

Yet I must say, my favorite part.......was the soundtrack. I bet you thought I was going to try to say something deep :) Well, it is true.
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Simply exceptional.
MartinHafer29 May 2012
"Liberty! The American Revolution" is about as good a series on the American Revolution as you can find and it not only is about what led to the war as well as the war but also the period AFTER the war when the Colonies were 13 independent nations in need of a stronger central government. How this led to the Constitution is discussed in the final episode. Exceptional production values, nice historical re-creations and an interesting script make this one to watch. As a retired history teacher, I found very little to complain about except in episode five--which made it sound as if the Colonies BEAT the British. This is a misconception. The British cut their losses and left the Colonies because they were involved in a world war with France, Spain AND Holland--so the Colonies ALONE were not victorious--it was clearly a group effort. Well worth seeing--and it's not too surprising since it's from PBS video--and those folks seem to make one amazing documentary after another.
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Why the actors/talking heads?
NonJeNeRegretteRien20 October 2007
I was looking forward to watching this documentary with great anticipation, but was surprised & disappointed to see the storytelling element where many historical figures are reenacted/represented by actors. I was looking for cited quotations, a more detailed narrative, historic illustrations, & maps. I instead felt like I was watching a "history-lite" documentary that dwelled too long on the entertainment value of dressed up actors. I guess I'll have to find some books to read, because this documentary felt like too little substance for the length of the documentary. My sense was the "living history" actors took something away from the gravity of the narrative & history. "Liberty! The American Revolution" was produced after Ken Burns' "The Civil War." One would think these documentary filmmakers could have learned something from Burns devices for telling a story when one can't rely much on photography or video. Marginally recommend as a supplement to reading histories of the American Revolutionary War.
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Fairly balanced view of the Revolution
intj1973-112 June 2005
This documentary features actors speaking the words of long-dead people, from Abigail Adams to King George III to Hessian mercenaries. The result is a multi-faceted view of the American Revolution. I use part of this program to teach the Revolution in my college courses for this reason. Since this is a U.S. production, the bias is pro-Revolution. I do not mind this, since my side won that war. I appreciate, however, the honest discussion of the key contradiction of the Revolution--the maintenance of slavery as part of the struggle for independence. Our founders were people, not demigods.

I will correct another commenter on this website. King George III actually spoke flawless English, as the actor who portrays him does. The monarch's great-grandfather (George I) spoke German. George II, grandfather of George III, spoke English as a second language. George III, however, took pride in speaking excellent English.
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