What happened to British Loyalists after the Revolutionary War?


What happened to the British Loyalists after the Revolutionary War? That’s the question NPR’s Rachel Martin set out to answer when she spoke with Maya Jasanoff, a professor of history at Harvard University.

The short answer: Nothing good.

According to the story, somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of people in the American colonies during the Revolution remained loyal to England. During the war those loyalists were often subjected to harassment, beatings, and on some occasions tarring and feathering (If you’ve seen the HBO series John Adams you know how unpleasant this could be). Of course there were also groups of loyalists who often took revenge on rebellious colonists. The story is a good reminder of how divisive the American Revolution was and how in some parts of the colonies, especially the South, it took on the nature of a civil war with neighbors often turning on neighbors.

After the Revolution, many loyalists followed the retreating British Army back to England. However, over half of the loyalists ended up resettling in Canada. You can listen to the full interview below. (Small Note: The Revolution ended in 1783 not 1781 as the introduction to the interview states.)