America's fight for independence from Great Britain includes the dramatic events leading up to the conflict and the important battles of the eight-year war. This is a rich source of topics that can be researched in depth, using a wide variety of primary and secondary resources.
Great Britain and the colonies developed ways to spy on each other to gain an advantage during the war. The Committee on Secret Correspondence, led by Benjamin Franklin, is one such effort worthy of research, as are notable individuals involved in espionage. They include patriot-turned-British spy Dr. Benjamin Church and patriots Benjamin Tallmadge and John Jay, heads of New York's Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies. Tallmadge and Jay foiled a 1776 scheme to capture George Washington, among other things. Patriot Benedict Arnold revealed secret news to the English about Rochambeau's French forces in Rhode Island and then defected to the British side. His famous spy career is documented in sources available in print and online.
The battle at Saratoga is one of the most significant battles in the war for independence. The success of the colonists in defeating the British troops there in 1777 is one such event. Benedict Arnold led colonial forces against a slow-moving and heavily armed British army, and Britain's missteps at Saratoga are a possible research topic. The British victory at Bunker Hill and the Cowpens battle, where Americans gained offensive momentum in the South, are both good subjects for study.
Health and Medicine
Unsanitary conditions at military camps facilitated the spread of dysentery, smallpox and other deadly diseases. They also increased the risks of infection and death for soldiers wounded in battle: Only 35 percent of soldiers survived injuries from musket balls or bayonets or from amputations done without anesthesia or sterilization. How these conditions affected the numbers of soldiers lost in battle is an intriguing research topic. Almost anyone with medical knowledge was called into service during the Revolutionary War to tend to the sick, so doctors received extensive experience in treating battlefield diseases and injuries. How the medical field was affected by the large volume of illnesses and injuries seen in eight years of war is a topic that could be explored in depth.
Colonial Opposition to Great Britain
Events leading up to military action are likewise good research topics. These events included the anti-tax revolts that led to the eventual declaration of colonial autonomy. England’s passage of a Sugar Tax in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765 to pay for British troops stationed in the colonies infuriated the patriots, who wanted representation in Parliament before new taxes were imposed. The refusal of colonists to buy British goods led patriots to dump tea into Boston harbor to punctuate their boycott. The differing points of view between loyalists and patriots living in the American colonies can be explored through primary source documents, newspapers and political cartoons.