Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Implausible Denial: British Prisoner Abuse was Policy, Not Accident

In 2008, Basic Books (New York) published Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War by historian Edwin G. Burrows. Burrows, Distinguished Professor of History at Brooklyn College (City University of New York), won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 with Mike Wallace, as coauthor of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

With Forgotten Patriots, Burrows offered a compelling contribution to several recent reexaminations of prisoner treatment by the British during the Revolution. Burrows, however, believed the British did not intend to let prisoners die of disease and starvation. The idea that Tory personnel and British commanders did not intend for squalid conditions to prevail, and for prisoners to suffer and die horribly, contradicts the story Burrows himself told of persistent neglect, uninterrupted by official intervention, and actively concealed by dubious denials from British personnel in British-occupied New York City.
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