... colorful and ambitious ... Lockwood has a keen eye for a good yarn, and there are enthralling glimpses here of individual lives buffeted by the American Revolution ... Lockwood’s grander claim that the Revolution 'devastated the globe' relies on the reader’s sense of a 'butterfly effect' ... What soon becomes clear even from the evidence Lockwood presents is that all of these events had much deeper pre-existing causes and in many cases more immediate triggers than Betsy Ross flapping a flag ... Lockwood intends his book to be political...Yet by tracing all these intricate and disparate global events back to the American Revolution, To Begin the World Over Again creates a new iteration of exceptionalism that claims the Revolution was not only America’s foundational moment, but the whole world’s ... The Revolution was a major event in world history. But was it really this important to everyone, everywhere, immediately? ... The effects of the American Revolution on France merit considerably more attention, and might have strengthened the book’s argument ... Having proposed such an audacious thesis, and collected a lot of interesting but not self-evidently cohesive or decisive information, the book needs to draw its ideas together and make its case that the American Revolution devastated the globe. As it is, though much of the material here is lively, enjoyable and compelling, the thesis is not persuasive. Rather than being either a unique global inspiration or a unique global devastator, perhaps in the 18th century America was just not the only game in town.
These biographical portraits can be vivid or confusing, depending on what the author wants the reader to learn from his twisting and turning storylines ... Readers will need to keep factors of basic logic in mind should they choose to pore through these pages. Considering the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, did all these global developments happen just because the American Revolution took place? Does the author actually present evidence that proves rather than just asserts direct connections? And what about causal explanations that reach beyond the mechanistic, blame game determinism that pervades in this study? ... Is it possible that the Revolution resulted in any positive outcomes for the world? Thomas Paine thought so when composing Common Sense. He viewed the autocratic old world as overrun by corruption, and he hoped the Revolution would serve as a model of liberation for peoples everywhere. That the author decided to ignore this broadened likelihood, to stand alongside his negative presentation, marks To Begin the World Over Again as a book much narrower in scope, vision, content, and interpretive value than it could have been.
[Lockwood] judiciously integrates economic, political, social, and legal developments across multiple locations and focuses his exhaustive research on archives that include the underreported 'voices of the poor, the struggles and triumphs of the common man and woman.' This enables him to humanize an epic story ... Lockwood also makes connections that will be new even to readers knowledgeable about Revolutionary War history ... Readers may be skeptical of Lockwood’s implication that certain developments, such as South American colonies’s struggles to gain independence, might not have happened without the American Revolution. Nonetheless, this is a breakthrough popular history, written with a novelist’s eye for detail and atmosphere.