Lord North, the British Prime Minister at the time of the Revolutionary War, was far from an incompetent leader. His talents and skills even prolonged the war. Before he became Prime Minister, he was a hard liner with regards to policies in America, voting for coercive measures. When he came to power as Prime Minister, he did much to diffuse the tense political climate and provided stability to a government that had recently changed leadership six times. He was remarkably successful; these years were often called the years of quiet. However, Lord North miscalculated when he led legislation that would reduce the duty on tea in America to benefit the East India Tea Company. Americans had been drinking smuggled tea at a cheaper price than the duty tea newly imposed on them. Lord North's policies, starting with the tea tax, united the American colonies in rebellion. When he realized the impact of his polices, he spent much of his administration trying to back track and compromise, looking for solutions. It was usually too little, too late.
Andrew O’Shaughnessy is the Vice President of Monticello, the Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is a dual citizen of Britain and the United States. After completing his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at Oxford University, he taught at Eton College before becoming a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a professor of American history at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he was chair of the History department between 1998 and 2003. He is the author of An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). His most recent book The Men Who Lost America. British Leadership, the American Revolution and the Fate of the Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013) received five national awards including the New York Historical Society American History Book Prize and the George Washington Book Prize. He has lectured widely to both scholarly and general audiences including the American Philosophical Society, the Oxford Discovery Programme on board the Queen Mary II and the University of Virginia Continuing Education Program at Colonial Williamsburg. He is an editor of the Jeffersonian American Series of the University of Virginia Press and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.