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History As It Happens

Nov 18, 2021

In the American origin story, King George plays the role of the villain. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson accuses the monarch of establishing “an absolute tyranny” over the thirteen North American colonies. School textbooks uncritically adopted this view, teaching generations of students that George (and Parliament) trampled the colonists’ rights before waging a cruel war against them. Two centuries later, newspaper articles and editorials continue to refer to George as a “power-mad little petty tyrant” and America’s “last authoritarian ruler.” And in the musical “Hamilton,” the King is depicted as pompous and comically incompetent. What if almost none of this were true? It could mean America’s origin story has more than a few holes in it. Acclaimed biographer Andrew Roberts, author of The Last King of America, says George III was no tyrant or despot, and the colonies were not oppressed under his reign. Why has George III been so badly misunderstood?