Liberty - The American Revolution [VHS]
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Product Description

Looking for an overview of the American Revolution akin to Ken Burns's The Civil War? Look no further! Liberty! The American Revolution successfully takes a unique, detailed peek into the 25 years of events that led to the establishment of the United States of America. The British are not painted as rigid "bad guys," nor the colonists as the rebellious "good guys." Instead, it correlates the complicated struggle between Britain and the American colonies to a stern mother and her teenage child longing for independence. Beginning after the French and Indian War (1763), Liberty! kicks off with the issue of taxation, the colonies' revolt, a declaration of independence, war with the British, eventual victory, and the establishment of a country and constitution unlike any in the history of mankind. The men and women involved are portrayed by actors and actresses reciting original documents, letters, and articles from the times. Well-edited, these soliloquies create an interesting feeling of conversation and continuity, almost as though you are getting a firsthand account of the events as they unravel. Though there are good battle descriptions (particularly Gen. Washington crossing the Delaware, Gen. Burgoyne at Saratoga, and Cornwallis at the Battle of Yorktown), the emphasis of Liberty! is on policy, events leading to war, deteriorating relationships, and ongoing governing challenges rather then actual military strategy. Nonetheless, this documentary is as exciting and interesting as any historical movie you will likely see, and a lot more accurate. --Rob Bracco

Featuring dramatic readings from letters and diaries of the period plus live-action re-creations, this compelling series traces the events leading up to the war and America's fight for freedom. In 1763, the French have left and America is at peace under British rule. But dissension is mounting, signified by the Boston Tea Party and publication of Tom Paine's book, Common Sense. Follow the course of revolution as George Washington assumes leadership, Benjamin Franklin goes to France seeking support, and ordinary Americans come together in a conflict that will forge a new nation.

< P>Titles are: "The Reluctant Revolutionaries," "The Times that Try Men's Souls," and "Are We to be a Nation?"

Customer Reviews:

  • Liberty - The American Revolution
    This is an excellent documentary series on the the American Revolution. It does a fine job of relating the economic, political and military issues of the day. The format is a narrated series of re-enactments and character portrayals based on surviving letters, diaries, documents and other records. I particularly appreciated the balanced presentation of American and British views, including historical material from the British press, parliament, and monarchy. You can find more detailed and insightful analyses of this period in several books, but this film documentary recreates it more vividly and empathetically
    than any book can....more info
  • Give me liberty!
    'Liberty! The American Revolution' is a wonderful PBS series, a six-part treatment of the period leading up to and including the American Revolution in the mid-to-late 1700s.

    As this series shows, the seeds of the American Revolution were planted long before the actual conflicts began. This was not an overnight decision on the part ofthe colonists or the British; intense negotiations and political attempts were made for years prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The colonists largely came from Britain; the leadership certainly looked to Britain for political, moral and cultural guidance, as well as primary trade and security vis-a-vis the Spanish, the French, and the Native Americans. American leaders were, by and large, British leaders too -- George Washington held a commission and fought with the British in the French and Indian War.

    This was a family break-up in many ways -- the series' astute use of the actual words of the people of the time show the emotions that conflict, the love-hate relationship both sides embodied. The first episode shows the beginnings of discontent on both sides, with the colonists beginning to be stressed over being ignored by the British leadership, and the British leadership, in the form of George III, newly ascended to the throne, and various high-powered ministers, feeling that the colonists were rather ungrateful toward their (so-they-considered-themselves-to-be) rightful lords.

    Liberty, ironically, was what George III and his first minister, William Pitt, were all about. The Seven-Years War was won as a fight for liberty; the colonies in America and elsewhere were won over to Britain, who had a parliamentary democracy (however poorly enacted) as opposed to absolute monarchy (such as in France). So, the break-up between Britain and the American colonies becomes all the more troublesome -- not only were the opposing sides practically family, but largely believed the same things.

    The series never makes the direct comparison, but one can get the sense of Jonathan Swift here, that the battles are fought over relatively minor things (like which side of the egg to crack) -- in the scheme of world politics then and now, the controversies were relatively slight. However, the issues of taxation, governance and respect were important, not perhaps so much for what they were, but for what they did portend as future treatment, and the colonists did not like being second-class citizens in a British-dominated world, even if, to the British leadership, being second-class British was better than being almost anything else. There was also the spectre of the Irish tyranny, perpetrated by the English, that loomed large as a possibility. Sadly, one cannot say that these fears were unjustified.

    The series is intriguing, introducing sides to the conflict that one doesn't recall from grade-school and high-school civics classes -- the conflicts among the colonies themselves; the dissent among the colonies who often wanted a repair rather than a break with Britain; and the personal reflections and fears of the founding fathers and mothers (yes, there were many women involved in this process). Using diaries, correspondence, official documents and media reports of the time, the show weaves together a narrative history that achieves a good popular balance between historical detail and narrative reporting.

    The writers' admiration for the founding Americans, their bravery and their intelligence, is very apparent. Their concern to present the British in a fair and balanced light is also apparent, and often portrayed as trying to be reasonable and responsive to many of the colonial concerns, if not always pleasant and courteous to the colonial leaders themselves. The writing is interesting and thoughtful, and done in a popular tone that gives personality to the people who figure in the events.

    The final episode looks at the aftermath of the war, and the struggle for unity as a nation. George Washington's statement that liberty could be both a blessing and curse was taken to heart -- when the Constitutional Convention met to amend the Articles of Confederation, it went far beyond its original mandate, and it was telling that not all colonies sent representatives, and not all that were sent agreed to stay through the proceedings.

    A great series in many ways, it makes a great gift for anyone (or to oneself) with an interest in history. It also has a companion volume available, which works both as a stand-alone volume or as a supplement....more info
  • Better than an introduction
    Liberty! The American Revolution is an excellent foray into the events of the Revolutionary war. Beginning in 1765 with the Stamp Act, the documentary covers the events that lead up to the war thus giving a good background both from the Colonist and the British points of view.

    There are history talking heads throughout the documentary that illuminate the event being shown at the time. Re-enactments are some of the best I've seen, with not just a shot of soldiers' feet marching and such ilk. There are battle scenes showing the full view of the battle lines of the soldiers.

    Each battle of the war is documented and for the first time revolutionary historian, it is plenty of information to give a good idea of how each event went. I was somewhat disappointed in the short time given to the crossing of the Delaware and the attack on Trenton, as well as Arnold's betrayal at West Point. It was talked about, but I would've liked to have seen more.
    This is also where I first heard about Joseph Plumb Martin, the soldier who kept a diary of the seven years he was with Washington, then later wrote a book about his times in the army when he was 70 years old.

    There is very good acting by actors who play familiar and not so familiar characters giving recitals of people's writing. This includes again, Colonial and British people. It's a great look at both sides. Some documentaries have someone reading off-camera. I like seeing a person re-enacting.

    I recommend getting this DVD set, especially if you don't have a domumentary of the Revolutionary Period. It's a great intro. Over the past 2 years, I've viewed it four times....more info
  • Good, but 3rd place for me...
    I'd read glowing reviews here and elsewhere for "Liberty" as THE documentary for the American Revolution, but I preferred both "The American Revolution" and "The Revolutionary War" over Liberty. I'll say this, Liberty does do a better job of covering the time leading up the war, but for as long as this series is (where you figure it would be pretty thorough), I was amazed at some of the events/people that were not covered at all. How does a documentary on the American Revolution make no mention of Ethan Allen, Nathan Hale, John Paul Jones, etc? I was also surprised at how little focus Thomas Jefferson received. Jefferson and his contributions were covered, but it seemed like it was almost an after-thought. Like, "Oh yeah, I guess we should mention Thomas Jefferson in here somewhere..." Also, the battles in NY (outside of the retreat from Long Island) were skipped over. No mention of the British invasion at Kip's Bay (where Washington said "Are these the men with which I am to defend America?"), no mention of the battle of White Plains, etc. I was also let down by how quickly they glossed over Benedict Arnold being exposed as a traitor, how it happened, Major John Andre's involvement, etc.

    All in all, not bad, but as I said, I preferred "The American Revolution" and "The Revolutionary War"....more info
  • Re-writing history one line at a time
    I have not read all of the reviews offered on Amazon, however, prior to purchasing this item (locally) I did read several reviews and was struck by the intelligent, reflective responses I did read. Overall the program does put forth a very informative and good understanding of what led the British colonists into revolt and what compelled men and women of the time to consider such an extraordinary action that led to the establishment of the greatest nation on earth and to date what has come to be the greatest nation and form of government that has been since time began and the nation-state has developed. However, if you have read many of the books of the time the program takes great liberties with several things: what is offered as verbatim dialogue of our founding fathers, and discussions of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence that are presented as factual. Additionally the program does not give adequate time to show just how tenuous the founding of our Republic was, and how many, many people living in America during this time just did not want to declare independence from England. Additionally it fails to adequately develop and provide the viewer with a good appreciation of the magnitude of suffering that was experienced by the American Patriots.

    I have read several historical documents relating to the American revolution and many Pulitzer Prize winning books by authors such as Douglas Southall Freeman and his 7 volume (the 7th was finished by other authors after his death) compendium on George Washington, Dumas Malone's 6 volumes on Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Flagg Bemis's 2 volume set on John Quincy Adams, and David McCollough's John Adams and most recently 1776, Joseph Ellis's book Founding Brothers, and numerous more on Franklin and other founding fathers. In each and every one of these books the authors do not fail to mention the undisputed fact that the overwhelming majority of the founding fathers (excluding Jefferson and Franklin) were deeply convicted in their faith in the Christian Lord Jesus and how that faith permeated their thought life and how that faith compellled the founding fathers and their wives to act on a daily basis. In a particularly irritating scene at the end of Part II, Blows Must Decide, the actor portraying John Adams, recounts a very famous and historic prophetic utterance given by Adams on the evening of July 2, 1776 in a letter to his wife Abigail - in the PBS version they blatanly omit a key part of a sentence in the retelling of this event. In fact Adams states: "The 2nd day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations form one end of this continent to the other form this time forward forever more." The PBS version quotes everything verbatim, yet, leaves out "by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty". This is an appalling omission. Additionally in this same segment it does not allow for historical documentation that indicates there is no clear and convincing accounts that Jefferson indeed was deferred to by John Adams in writing the Declaration - in fact his three point discussion to Jefferson MAY have happened, yet Jefferson himself disputes it ever did.

    The subject matter is one of the most well documented events in history and by which the facts can easily be substantiated. However, it appears their team of researchers wanted to "slant" the program in some ill-conceived manner - and for what purposes leaves me quite befuddled. I can only assume their reasoning for such ommissions are due to their "Public Broadcasting" political correctness slant - perhaps if they mention any element of the Fouding Fathers faith, such would result in a lack of funding. As such if the events and dialogues contained all of the facts of the day - this would be a program worthy of educators to present to the youth of today. Unfortunately, glaring ommissions of fact do not permit me to grant this program more than 2 stars....more info
  • Well worth the effort.
    This has to be the most complete and in-depth documentary of the Revolution.
    I'm rating it 4 stars because I've never seen anything worth 5.
    It explains in detail every nuance of thought from our founding fathers and the war itself.
    Highly recommended....more info
  • Comprehensive documentary in 5 1/2 hours
    This documentary starts with the reasons of why the Americans, after decades of loyalty to the British government, decided to seperated itself from their mother country. Then it goes on to the revolutionary war. After the war ended, it explains how the new country was created with the new constitution and the bill of right. Keep in mind that the focus is on the American revolution, not the biography of the founding fathers. Overall, PBS made a good effort to make a comprehensive documentary in 5 1/2 hours....more info
  • Highly informative and highly entertaining
    A most enjoyable way for learning the basics of the American revolution. The book by Thomas Fleming really compliments it quite well.

    I really enjoyed the actor portrayals of the men and women involved giving voice to the words they actually wrote. And the way they were combined by the film served quite well. Thomas Hutchinson really comes across as Parliment's Quisling, seeking their support for his ambitions to hold local offices. Contrasting Hutchinson is Ben Franklin (extremely well portrayed) whose ambitions are clearly imperial. Or Rochambou, seasoned and experienced, contrast with Lafayett's youthful idealism.

    I also enjoyed the Historian interviews. Clearly the Brits still don't understand what this war was over. They really should study their own civil war between Parliment and Charles I before they even try to tell us what our war with them was over.

    Overall, I enjoyed this series. Superbly filmed. Narated nicely. Portrayed realisticly. A joy to watch. ...more info
  • Loaded with "Gee I Never Knew That" moments...
    This series was first broadcast on PBS in 1997 as an astonishing "bring it to life" narrative of the years leading up to the American Revolution, the scope of the war itself, and the drafting of the Constitution. Each of the six segments (an hour each) dissects not so much a specific point in time as a prevailing attitude. A long list of actors brings color and liveliness to not only the familiar names such as Franklin, Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and Patrick Henry, but also some of the lesser-known names such as General Howe, General Burgoyne, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Benjamin Rush. One of the best performances is delivered by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Joseph Plumb Martin of Connecticut -a soldier from Connecticut who enlists at the age of 16 and serves in Washington's Continental Army for most of the war. Martin's diary is a wonderful source for understanding the lives of Continental soldiers and provides much of the "average American" viewpoint during the conflict, although he turns up again in episode six, returned to civilian life and grappling with the reality of the new Constitution-based government. Familiar and not-so-familiar period portraiture helps to flesh out sequences that don't actually feature actors or dramatizations, and interviews with prominent historians and other scholars round out the drama and anchor the viewer with a bit of perspective. The sidelights come in from all across the spectrum: opinions of British regulars are given as much voice as the American colonists, slaves and indentured servants deliver a number of rebukes, Southern aristocrats decry the vile customs of their neighbors to the north, and the Federalist-versus-Antifederalist argument is dramatized with an intensity no junior high school history class seems to have ever been able to manage. These and other well-timed juxtapositions drive home the reality that the Americans were far from united on the subject of independence, just as members of Parliament were far from united on the subject of what to do about their upstart colonies. The series is loaded up with generous helpings of what this reviewer calls GINKT moments (Gee I Never Knew That). GINKTs are undoubtedly one of the most effective tools in retaining audience interest and sparking discussion. Wonderful teaching tool....more info
  • Beware of buying from Fot Records
    Liberty: The American Revolution has great depth of information, but it's a little too much for junior high age students. Unfortunately we bought the DVD from Fot Records who will not allow returns if the package has been opened without penalizing the buyer a hefty 80%!

    We are a school library, and we must preview every DVD we buy before we show it to our students. When we realized the DVD was inappropriate for our age group, we returned it to Fot Records only to find out that we were receiving only $8.99 of our original $44.98 because we had opened the package! Essentially we have paid $41.17, including shipping, for a video we RETURNED! We could have just kept the DVD and given it to the high school if we had known in advance of Fot Record's extremely unfair practices.

    Amazon states in their policies that "if a new item is returned opened, or an item is returned as unwanted (i.e., not defective), the seller may deduct a reasonable restocking fee from your refund." Eighty percent is not a reasonable restocking fee!

    Although we offered an compromise to Fot Records, they refused. I suggest if you want to purchase this DVD, do it from someone other than Fot Records....more info