That’s rather a large question! Let’s start by saying it was inevitable thanks to the stupidity of the British government (nothing changes). After I wrote Redcoat I had a couple of letters (pre-email days!) from Vietnam veterans thanking me for writing their story, and there really are parallels. The British never had forces big enough to hold the whole country, a fact that prompted an irascible letter from the 1st Duke of Wellington when, after Napoleon’s first abdication, he was asked to lead British forces in the War of 1812. He wrote to the War Office saying it was impossible: too big a country, too small an army, offer refused. The redcoats often, indeed usually, fought extremely well and won a lot of set-piece victories like Germantown, but they only ever controlled the territory they occupied. The rebels also fought extremely well, astonishing the world with their great victory at Saratoga and that, of course, brought France and Spain into the war on their side. In 1976 the French issued a postage stamp commemorating the bicentenary of 1776 and the stamp shows a bare-breasted Marianne (symbolizing France) beating down a mangy British lion. At her feet is a tiny baby with a sash reading ‘Etats-Unis’, and there’s a kernel of truth in that. I find most Americans don’t want to know that the largest army at Yorktown was the French, the second largest was the Continental Army under General Washington and the smallest was the British. None of that detracts from Washington’s achievement – the French would not have been there had not the rebels proven that the British could be beaten. And, of course, the revolution was a prime opportunity for the French to seek revenge for their losses in the Seven Years War (in which Washington fought for the British!). Americans forget it was a world war, preferring to believe that gallant (and they were) rebels took on the mightiest power in Europe and won! And why not? They did! As a founding myth it has proved durable and useful. And, of course, the great loser of the American War of Independence was France. I stood at the place where Benedict Arnold (still a patriot) took the battery at Saratoga with an act of insane bravery, and thought that the whole world turned on its axis at that moment. If he had failed the battle would have been lost, if the battles was lost the French would not have joined, but they did and the expenses of the war bankrupted the nation which in turn led to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The seeds of Waterloo were sown at Saratoga! And all because a makeshift army of rebels took on an empire!