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The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (Vintage) Paperback – August 13, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0375703461 ISBN-10: 0375703462 Edition: 1St Edition

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The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (Vintage) + The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction + Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1St Edition edition (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703461
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Surveying the founding British settlements of eastern North America, Bailyn, whose laurels include the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, embeds the stories of Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts in details of the transatlantic demographic movements in play. Uprooting oneself required powerful motivations that Bailyn extracts from the emigrants’ social origins in their home countries of England, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Bailyn shows news of the vanguards’ fortunes being sent back to Europe to their sponsors, whose particular responses of raising funds, recruiting reinforcements, and propagating the attractions of America as commercial opportunity, escape from social stratification, or religious refuge generate Bailyn’s narrative momentum through the first several generations of colonization. With such conceptual themes presiding over his presentation, Bailyn graphically emphasizes the settlement process as one of savage brutality, featuring common contempt for human life aggravated, to be sure, by primitive conditions and appalling death rates but epitomized in continual warfare with Indians, remorselessly tending toward their elimination. In Bailyn’s perceptive and erudite hands, the original British, Dutch, and Swedish ventures assume as wild and variegated guises as did the forceful individuals who embarked on them. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“If we are lucky, we will have our times analyzed by an historian with the intellectual and literary skills of Bernard Bailyn, who in his new book, The Barbarous Years, provides a highly detailed and meticulously researched account of the first great stage of England’s dominion over North America. Bailyn’s exploration of the forces at play is not new. . . . What is new is the painstaking detail, often extracted from previously untapped primary material that Bailyn uses to support his argument. . . . The Barbarous Years [is] a cornucopia of human folly, mischief and intrigue.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

“Bailyn, an eminent historian of America’s early years, has written a wide-ranging account of its peoples and their intellectual preoccupations—overwhelmingly questions of religion—that shaped the period between 1600 and 1675. . . . Bailyn has given readers a bracing, unvarnished account of a century that determined what would follow.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Throughout the book, Mr. Bailyn patiently explains the origins of the people who migrated to America. Readers learn which regions of England, the Netherlands and Scandinavia produced the most migrants, which social classes were best represented, and the extent to which young males predominated within various migrant flows.” —The Wall Street Journal

“No one is better qualified to survey the carnage at Plymouth than Bailyn. . . . [The Barbarous Years is a] nutritious colonial fare that Bailyn so masterfully sets before us.” —Harvard Magazine

“As Bailyn shows in his beautifully written introduction, natives and aliens were far more alike than we are accustomed to thinking.” —Maclean’s

“It is tempting to call The Barbarous Years: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600–1675, Bernard Bailyn’s third volume on the ‘peopling’ of the North American continent—he has already won a Pulitzer for an earlier volume—simply magisterial: sweeping, authoritative, commanding. But it is that and so much more. It has rare scholarly warmth, an understanding of how to be nimble with the material, to be an entertainer as well as a teacher, someone possessing both an easy familiarity with the subject combined with a responsibility—an eagerness—to keep an eye skinned for recent progress in the field, open to history’s secrets and surprises, finding the good stuff and steering clear of the fashionable. . . . What Bailyn does so well is to not only explain all the action but to pull it into a coherency, a great panoptical dazzle: what motivated people’s actions, how they conducted themselves and why.” —Christian Science Monitor

The Barbarous Years, the long-awaited companion to Voyagers to the West, is an even greater achievement. . . . Both in the span of time he examines (the years 1600 to 1675) and in his effort to capture the full range of ‘the conflict of civilizations’ in the early European colonization of North America, The Barbarous Years is Bailyn’s most ambitious book.” —The Daily Beast

“Bailyn’s extensive skills at demography, material history, and ideological history are on full display.” —The Wilson Quarterly

“Magisterial. . . . Popular histories often gentrify these early events, but Bailyn’s gripping, detailed, often squirm-inducing account makes it abundantly clear how ungenteel they actually were.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This weighty book distills a lifetime of learning of one of our most authoritative historians of colonial America. . . . A history of the colonies built up of brilliant portraits of the people who interacted in these strange and fearsome lands. . . . This is not your school-book colonial history. . . . Penetrating and stylish. . . . An extraordinary work of profound seriousness, characteristic of its author.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Drawing on decades of sound, dynamic research, the author has provided scholars and general readers alike with an insightful and engaging account of Colonial America that signals a reset on Colonial studies, the culmination of his work. An important book. . . . Superbly told.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“In Bailyn’s perceptive and erudite hands, the original British, Dutch, and Swedish ventures assume as wild and variegated guises as did the forceful individuals who embarked on them.” —Booklist
“Bailyn spares no gory detail, but he treats his subjects with sympathy.” —The New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

So . . . if this kind of stuff is news to you, get this book.
Stanley Crowe
More for the history nerd than the casual reader, it is well written and documented.
Really shocking accounts of early European settlers and native Americans.
Marlene R Sturdevant

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe on December 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
To a reader like myself who's fairly familiar with aspects of British and Irish history but hardly at all with American history, especially early stuff, this is fascinating. I didn't know that the earliest efforts to colonize Virginia were such a disaster -- people were dying like flies over there, even as entrepreneurs sought recruits to sail to new lives in what was presented as a terrestrial paradise. The lure of land, the development of the tobacco trade, and later the fur trade, the relations with the indigenous peoples, the blending of religious and commercial motives, the context for the behavior of the natives -- Bailyn lays it all out very deftly, blending a chronological organization with a geographical one. The cases of Maryland and New England are very different from Virginia's (and each other) despite the overlap in time. The idea of colliding cultures (English and native American) that one finds in the blurb oversimplifies things. There is no single English or European culture, and the native tribes have likewise their own pressures and agendas. So it's a complicated story to tell, and at times the reader might be overwhelmed with colonists' names and Indian place names -- and more maps would help, I think -- but the main lines of the various stories (for there isn't just one) are clear. Bailyn seems to be aiming at the general reader, but some work is required. Some Tudor and Stuart background helps, and it helps to know, for example, what a joint-stock company is and what English policy towards Ireland was in the early 17th century. Readers who aren't up on such things need to do a little work, but it's worth it.Read more ›
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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful By MT57 on January 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Bernard Bailyn is a titan in the field of early American history and the 529 pages of text in this book display his mastery of that field. The Barbarous Years presents in thorough detail the first six or seven decades of the Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York settlements and to a lesser extent Delaware and Maryland as well. Certainly anyone looking for a comprehensive overview of these events should read this book.

The Barbarous Years is, mainly, an overview, but, as the title indicates, Bailyn emphasizes the barbaric circumstances of the settlement experience in an attempt to establish thematic unity. He relates in graphic detail the killings, tortures and massacres committed by the European settlers and Native Americans against each other, particularly in the chapters on Virginia. But he takes pains to note how each such group inflicted identical horrors upon its own members as well. In a similar vein, he sets forth the details of the deprivations the Europeans endured in their earliest years, the mean conditions of their daily lives and the astonishingly high mortality rates.

There is also substantial demographic analysis of the settlement communities; significant description of the conditions and events in 17th century England that caused the exodus to America; and a detailed exposition of the diverse viewpoints on religious and other issues, such as land management, within the several communities, and the roots of those differences in England.

The reading experience, however, was not commensurate with the scholarship. Having read Philbrick's "Mayflower" and "The Island at the Center of the World" I was already familiar with the Massachusetts and New York narratives.
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71 of 81 people found the following review helpful By k on February 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an odd book for one of America's premier historians. It isn't a bad book -- a person of Bailyn's erudition couldn't write a bad book -- but it doesn't hang together well. The author does not really have anything new to say and a historian of the Early Colonial Period will quickly recognize the usual sources. It is hard to see exactly what historiographical niche this book fills.

Even the title is misleading. Sure, Jamestown was barbarous enough by our standards and New Amsterdam was plenty harsh. But, the Bay Colony was, by the rough-and-ready standards of 17th century Europe, pretty civilized. (Compare it with the contemporaneous English Civil War or the Thirty Years War.) As for "Conflict of Civilizations," there was certainly enough of that but the most interesting part of the book, the last third or so on the Bay Colony, is largely an account of Puritan theological quarrels.

In fact, one senses that Bailyn felt like he was "home" when he wrote about the Bay Colony. He has, after all, written about New England since 1955 ("Merchants.") He gives the reader a clear account of the theological duels between Winthrop, Cotton, Hooker, Williams, Hutchinson and others. But, others have done this as well or better.

Bailyn all but ties himself in a knot to be politically correct toward the Native Americans. For every Indian atrocity he finds a matching atrocity in European civilization. Still, if captured in war one was likely to be a lot better off among the English, French or Dutch than the Pequods. A LOT better off!

This volume is part of a series that explores the settling of North America and hardly anyone is better equipped for this than the author.
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