Often understood as a high-minded, orderly event, the American Revolution grows in this masterful history like a ground fire overspreading Britain's mainland colonies, fuelled by local conditions and resistant to control. Emerging from the rivalries of European empires and their allies, the revolution pivoted on western expansion as well as resistance to new British taxes. In the seaboard cities, leading Patriots mobilised popular support by summoning crowds to harass opponents. Along the frontier, the war often featured guerrilla violence that persisted long after the peace treaty. The smouldering discord called forth a movement to consolidate power in a Federal Constitution but it was Jefferson's "empire of liberty" that carried the Revolution forward. This magisterial history reveals the American Revolution in its time, free of wishful hindsight.