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Old World, New World: Great Britain and America from the Beginning Hardcover – October 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139719
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

The stories of the United States and Great Britain are inexorably linked beyond the Colonial ties and shared language, a connection and relationship that form the basis of this original book by Burk (history, Univ. Coll. London). While there are numerous books about specific links between the countries (see, for instance, Christopher Hitchens's Blood, Class and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship), Burk's study is vast and complex, assessing the total relationship. She ably addresses the political and diplomatic ties but really shines when discussing the cultural influences between the two countries; a fascinating chapter called "Nineteenth Century Travelers' Tales" explores the writings of British and American voyagers, including Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. The book is well researched—Burk used many archives on both sides of the Atlantic—and, though its heft may be intimidating, it is well written, with a strong narrative that reads like that of a shorter work. Highly recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/08.]—Mike Miller, Austin P.L., TX
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From Booklist

Because of the bonds of language and the common heritage of representative government, the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Great Britain may seem natural, inevitable, and even eternal. This ambitious, comprehensive, and engrossing examination of that relationship over four centuries illustrates convincingly that this alliance is of recent vintage and that it has also been characterized by tension, divergent interests, and occasional warfare. Burk is a native Californian who lives in and teaches history at University College in London, and she strives effectively to explain the connections as perceived from both sides of the Atlantic. Burk illustrates how the loyalty that colonists felt to the Crown frayed as the commercial interests of colonists and the Mother Country differed. In the nineteenth century, British and American politicians and ordinary citizens were rivals in the fur trade and opponents in the War of 1812. Even in the last century, the alliance tempered in war has seen its share of ups and downs. A superbly researched and well-written account that will be of great interest to both scholars and general readers. --Jay Freeman

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Customer Reviews

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Well worth the read and addition to the history shelf.
Forrest Wildwood
Old World New World is a very interesting and well written and documented look at the relationship between the United States and it's mother country Great Britain.
Joseph P. Ulibas
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in history.
M. A. Ramos

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the outset of her study of the historical relationship between Great Britain and the United States, Kathleen Burk quotes the American novelist and expatriate to Britain William James: "I have not the least hesitation in saying that I aspire to write in such a way that it wd. be impossible to an outsider to say whether I am, at a given moment, an American writing about England or an Englishman writing about America ... & so far from being ashamed of such an ambiguity I should be exceedingly proud of it, for it would be highly civilized."

As did Henry James, Professor Burk has strong ties to both the United States and England. She is a fourth generation Californian with degrees from UCLA. Following her studies in the United States, Burk took a degree from Oxford. On a personal level, Burk tells the reader, she is married to an Englishman. Burk currently teaches at Oxford, but she has also taught extensively in her native land. Her book, "Old World, New World" shows that Professor Burk has succeeded in the difficult task of seeing the relationship between the United States and Great Britain with sympathy and understanding from both sides. Her ability to become part of each culture is the chief strength of this excellent history.

In her book, Burk tries to show that there is a "special relationship" between the United States and Britain which is largely different from the relationship between any other two nations. She traces the course of this relationship over four centuries, beginning with the first attempts at British colonization of America in the early 17th Century to the present day. With the lengthy time frame of her study, Burk shows how the relationship has evolved.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By David Traill VINE VOICE on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After receiving an advance copy, I have found myself using this for the AP US History classes I teach as well as reading beyond what I am supposed to cover in class. It has been a thoroughly helpful book, capable of being a one-stop shop for details on the long involvement and tangled relationship that Britain and the United States have enjoyed since the colonial era.

While there is a lot of material to cover, Burk does a solid job at documenting the 400+ years that these two countries have pinned their hopes and successes on the other. Readers will be relieved to find it is not written in an overly academic tone, but is easily digested and appreciated thanks to the careful writing and editing.

I have enjoyed using this book and will continue doing so for many years to come.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S. D. Johnson VINE VOICE on September 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While I am still only about half-way through this book, I feel I have covered enough of it to write a review. If there is anything more to add when I am finished, I will revisit this review and add additional notes at that time.

I thought I knew a lot about American history, but this book reveals just how much I never learned in school, especially our history during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book covers the history of the United States and the English/British relationship with it, from the very first explorations and early settlement attempts in Virginia. The book primarily focuses on diplomatic efforts, but covers enough details of the military campaigns to cover the essential elements of the various wars we've engaged in.

For example, coverage of the War of 1812 includes details of the British attacks on Washington DC, while also covering the behind-the-scenes diplomatic moves in Europe. As background, mention is made of the other wars Britain was involved in at the time to show how the American war was a low priority, in the assignment of both military resources and diplomatic resolve. The desire to end the American war, so that resources could be applied elsewhere, was as important to the British as was the relegation of lower-level diplomats to the negotiations.

The only negative thing about the book is probably also its greatest positive, which is simply the vast quantity of details covered. Each page is crammed with facts and the paragraphs are rather long, making it a bit difficult to read. However, it is a very enjoyable and informative read and is well worth the effort. This is one of those books that will benefit from a second reading and will serve as a comprehensive reference on the shelf of anyone who is interested in the history of this unique relationship.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
During the time of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, it was easy to see that Britain and the United States had a special relationship -- it was embodied very much in the personalities and ideologies of the two leaders. However, one cannot but wonder what personal bond there might have been between George W. Bush and Tony Blair, men from different backgrounds and opposite party affiliations, and yet the special relationship between Britan and the United States remained so firm that it remained largely unquestioned both at home and abroad. Kathleen Burk makes a good attempt at helping to explain this special relationship -- it is a theme that runs throughout her text. Even the War for Independence and the War of 1812 did not serve to severe the special relationship that existed between Britain and her former colonies; even the ascendancy of the United States onto the world stage, in many ways replacing and upstaging Britain in international affairs did not undermine the relationship. This is a bond that reaches back nearly half a millennium.

Burk traces the history back to the earliest settlements in North America by the British, and the development of a colonial system that was both independent from and dependent upon Britain in ways not often considered; the culture of the colonies was largely dependent upon Britain, and until the time of the Revolution, much effort was put forth by many of those same colonist who led the revolt to gain Britain's favor, both politically and culturally. There is some of this still at work in the international world -- as the United States grew in the twentieth century into a world power in the place of Britain, it still sought many of the ideals that had been part of the imperial intent: civilization, democracy, liberal economy, etc.
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