Secret History of The American Revolution

Title:                      Secret History of The American Revolution

Author:                Carl Van Doren

Van Doren, Carl (1941, 1973). Secret History of The American Revolution: an account of the conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and numerous others, drawn from the Secret Service papers of the British headquarters in North America, now for the first time examined and made public. Clifton, NJ: A. M. Kelley

LCCN:    70122062

E277 .V23 1973


Date Updated:  October 22, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The title page includes the description “an account of the conspiracies of Benedict Arnold and numerous others drawn from Secret Service papers of the British Headquarters in North America, now for the first time examined and made public.” Van Doren expanded his study of Arnold and André to include other operations run by the British to subvert American patriots with the aid of their loyalist allies; the fuller story of the Arnold-André affair was made possible by access to the Clinton papers, which included the complete correspondence between Arnold and the British. At the time of its publication, this was rightly hailed as a solid and basic addition to the great books on the American Revolution. Commager, in his New York Times review, was of the view that Van Doren did not pretend that this was “the” secret history, since there was much more that was secret; he was certainly correct, for this book only touches one aspect of the clandestine and covert parts of the war. All of these combined with the secret diplomacy conducted on the American continent and abroad would constitute the full secret war of both sides. Even Van Doren’s account of British and loyalist clandestine and covert actions against the revolutionary cause on the American continent is only a portion of their total effort. Just as Commager felt this work would contribute an interesting chapter in a full story of the American Revolution, so it would be an important segment of a full history of the intelligence or secret war. A vital new piece in the Arnold-British relationship may be contained in the 1977 work of Frank E. McKone, General Sullivan: New Hampshire Patriot, which identifies the British agent close to Arnold, John Hall, as a link in Arnold’s defection. In retrospect, it can now be seen that one of the consequences of Van Doren’s work was that it stimulated interest in the role of intelligence in the American Revolution and inspired the research of others.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[2]

An original and enduring work. From previously unavailable papers from the British army headquarters, Von Doren has produced a detailed account of the conspiracy between Benedict Arnold and the British army. The author records the activities of other secret agents as weII.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 466-467

[2] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 162


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4 Responses to Secret History of The American Revolution

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