In Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence, authors Bill O’Reilly and Martin Duguard take readers back in time to explore The American Revolution through a present tense narrative showcasing the various political events, battles, and individuals that made The American Revolution one of the most monumental events in human history.
The books narrative writing style is such that events are seen through the eyes of both the American colonists, as well as The British Empire. This narrative style is unique and refreshing in my experience, as almost all the books/text books that I’ve read about the American Revolution focused strictly on the colonial American Point of view and tend to portray the British of the colonial era as snobby aristocratic dictators who are obsessed with taxes.
In terms of plot and overall story, Killing England tends to focus on only one or two characters /historical figures for each chapter. In the prologue, readers are introduced to George Washington as a 21-year-old lieutenant Col for the British army at The Battle of Fort Necessity where he faces his first military defeat and briefly summarizes Braddock’s Disaster and Washington’s subsequent resignation from military service until being called upon by the Continental Congress to lead the newly formed American Continental Army years later.
After the prologue, the timeline jumps to 1760 and the coronation of King George III and his marriage to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Throughout the book, King George is portrayed in a neutral narrative which at times can even be sympathetic. He’s seen as someone who had the responsibility of the monarch thrust upon him at an early age and the stresses of ruling causes him to have mental breakdowns throughout his reign and this might have been written in such a way that the reader might feel somewhat empathetic for King George throughout the story.
Besides General Washington and King George, both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are the other two “main characters” featured in Killing England, with Jefferson’s story arc largely focusing on the writing and signing of The Declaration of Independence, the inner workings and day to day activities of Congress, and later as a widower and plantation owner of Monticello. Ben Franklin’s ambassadorship to France and his influence on the war effort is also a major plot point, as is his reputation for affairs and courtships of multiple women throughout his life both American and French alike.
In all, the authors effectively use the characteristics and personalities of each of these historical figures to bring a more personal astatic to The American Revolution and the early days of The United States of America.
None of these men were without flaws and each of them were also shown as facing great internal conflicts in addition to the conflict which changed the course of human history. Readers can almost feel the anguish and worry that Washington feels for his men during the winter at Valley Forge as well as the sheer joy and sense of victory after the surrender of General Cornwallis. Thomas Jefferson is fraught with conflict over whether to stay with Congress or return home to be at the bedside of his ailing wife Martha only to end up losing her along with all but one of their children. Benjamin Franklin has a great many skills as an inventor, writer, publisher, scientist, and politician. He has a way with words, and a way with women, as evidenced by correspondence that was discovered between him and several women over the years. He is also a skilled diplomat and a fierce patriot for the newly independent America. Yet for all his positive qualities Killing England also shows readers that Ben Franklin was neglectful of his own family, and of his duties as a father. In fact, the rift between Ben and his illegitimate son William was so great that he (William) chose loyalty to England and even exiled himself upon learning that his father would have arrested him and the two never spoke again. This is profound to me because it shows how politics and differing beliefs could divide families even in America’s earliest days. The humanity and flaws of each man helped me to experience The American Revolution in a more personal way as opposed to mere facts and figures.
Killing England was co-authored by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. O’Reilly is perhaps best known for hosting his own conservative news and commentary talk show on The Fox News Channel for a total of 16 years until late 2016. He now has a subscription based internet radio show on his own website and writes columns there as well. His Amazon Author page reads:
Bill O’Reilly’s success in broadcasting and publishing is unmatched. The iconic anchor of The O’Reilly Factor led the program to the status of the highest rated cable news broadcast in the nation for sixteen consecutive years. His website BillOReilly.com is followed by millions all over the world.
In addition, he has authored an astonishing 12 number one ranked non-fiction books including the historical “Killing” series. Mr. O’Reilly currently has 17 million books in print.
Bill O’Reilly has been a broadcaster for 42 years. He has been awarded three Emmys and a number of other journalism accolades. He was a national correspondent for CBS News and ABC News as well as a reporter-anchor for WCBS-TV in New York City, among other high-profile jobs.
Mr. O’Reilly received two other Emmy nominations for the movies “Killing Kennedy” and “Killing Jesus.”
He holds a history degree from Marist College, a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, and another master’s degree from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Bill O’Reilly lives on Long Island where he was raised. His philanthropic enterprises have raised tens of millions for people in need and wounded American veterans.
There is not that much information on the specific political affiliation or opinions of O’Reilly’s co-author Martin Dugard as he seems to focus more on general non-fiction, self-motivation, and memoir type books. An excerpt from Dugard’s website reads:
An adventurer himself, Dugard regularly immerses himself in his research to understand characters and their motivations better. To better understand Columbus he traveled through Spain, the Caribbean and Central America. For Tut he explored pharaohs’ tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. He followed Henry Morton Stanley’s path across Tanzania while researching Into Africa (managing to get thrown into an African prison in the process), and swam in the tiger shark-infested waters of Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay to recreate Captain James Cook’s death for Farther Than Any Man. And for To Be A Runner, he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, suffered electric shock and hypothermia as part of Britain’s Tough Guy competition, and explored Japanese WWII bunkers on the island of Saipan.
I feel that Dugard’s adventurous nature along with meticulous research is what makes Killing England an extremely accessible read. His attention to detail makes it seem as if the reader is there for all of the major events of the war and brings out there personalities of each character. As far as political biases are concerned, the authors seem to remain rather neutral which was a pleasant surprise considering O’Reilly’s outspoken position as a conservative commentator.
Because I read/listened to the audiobook version, I didn’t have an appendix or bibliography at the end of the book. However, the narrator orally cites various sources at the end of each chapter including: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, The Washington Library, and The National Archives.
Overall, I enjoyed Killing England immensely. I’ve always admired General Washington and The Founding Fathers, and reading this book broadened my appreciation of our founders efforts on a more personal level.