- Series: Hist of the USA (Book 1)
- Hardcover: 526 pages
- Publisher: Viking (November 12, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670872822
- ISBN-13: 978-0670872824
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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American Colonies (Penguin History of the United States) Hardcover – November 12, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
First in Viking's new five-volume series the Penguin History of the United States, edited by noted Columbia historian Eric Foner (Reconstruction), this book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Taylor (William Cooper's Town) challenges traditional Anglocentric interpretations of colonial history by focusing more evenly on the myriad influences on North America's development. Beginning with the Siberian migrations across the Bering Straits 15 millennia ago, Taylor lays out the complicated road map of ownership, occupation and competition involving the Native Americans, African slaves and Spanish, Dutch, French and English colonists. He covers settlement and conquest from Canada to Mexico, and from the West Indies and mainland colonies to the Pacific islands. "The colonial intermingling of peoples and of microbes, plants, and animals from different continents was unparalleled in speed and volume in global history," he writes. Taylor delves deeply into topics given scant mention in most histories: the crucial role of the West Indies in the 17th-century economy and the particular brand of brutality that supported it; cultural disparities among the many Native peoples that influenced their mutually dependent relations with the various colonizers. An extensive, chapter-by-chapter bibliography lists further reading. Even the serious student of history will find a great deal of previously obscure information, for instance that in the 18th century the Russian fur traders went much farther on North America's Pacific Coast than the explorers sent by the Russian crown. The book offers a balanced understanding of the diverse peoples and forces that converged on this continent early on and influenced the course of American history. Illus. (Nov. 12)Forecast: This bold new view of early America should be widely and well reviewed, and will attract a broad range of students of American history.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this first book in the "Penguin History of the United States" series, Taylor (history, Univ. of California, Davis; William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic) examines American colonial history from a wide-ranging perspective. Instead of offering the traditional story of the English colonies and "American exceptionalism," Taylor examines the complex mix of peoples, events, and influences that shaped the New World. He notes that the intermingling of cultures, people, plants, and animals from different parts of the world was unparalleled in speed and volume and had devastating consequences for the environment and most of the participants. Only a very select few prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, a period in which North America actually lost population owing to diseases, wars, and early deaths. He vividly describes the harsh realities of colonial life and examines the important roles played by French, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, and English colonists as well as Native Americans and African slaves. Well written and documented, this is recommended for academic and large public libraries. Robert Flatley, Frostburg State Univ., MD
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is supposed to be the first volume of a five volume series entitled The Penguin History of the United States. Unfortunately, it appears that only one other volume in the series was completed. This entry stands alone easily and for many is the definitive one volume work on the American colonies from their establishment to the Revolution. However, do not be fooled into thinking it is the quintessential work on the era. Taylor’s book was made for a wide audience and did not dive as deep into the era as a much larger work would have. What Taylor did do was explore the colonization of North America from a much wider perspective than just the traditional Anglo-American centric view which has dominated American historical thought until recently. In doing this Taylor explored new directions of historiography into various subfields of history. The result is a book that shows just how complex history actually is.
American Colonies seeks to answer the why questions of history. Taylor weaves the multiple themes historians explore in each era together to form a narrative that conveys what occurred in the past and why these events happened. I was particularly interested to see how he would treat the development of chattel slavery in the colonies. He condensed much of Edmund Morgan’s great exploration of the subject into seven pages which while not an in depth expose of slavery itself, managed to explain to the reader how slavery got its start in the colonies. The excerpt is quite useful for instructing students in American history survey courses where time is short and depth is needed.
This is just one example of the utilities involved in the making of this book. It is full of sections like this one on slavery which can be used in the classroom when an instructor is making a point. It is also very useful for instructors to have as support for their textbooks. In some cases, the book is the textbook. Taylor’s credentials as a master historian are beyond dispute. The result is an outstanding book written by a master historian, edited by another master historian, and presented to a wide audience for their learning pleasure. Books like this are rare and should be savored. I for one enjoyed reading this book and recommend it for others interested in American history, especially in the colonial era.
The richness of this history comes by way of the various cultures that are included. From the perspective of the East coast of the continent, the story of colonialism involves the British and the Native Americans. When the view extends North to Canada then we include the French. What Taylor does is show the perspective from all angles, and this means that Spanish and Dutch influences were also important, the former especially so in the West.
Chapters on the history of different regions rather than single countries or islands highlights the fact that there were diverse influences which oftentimes overlapped and interacted. There are chapters on the Carolinas, the West Indies, New England, the Pacific Coast and Chesapeake region. Certainly not left out of this analysis is the huge role Africa and its sons and daughters played in the settlement of our continent.
This is the first Volume in the Penguin History of the United States. It seems ironic then that the books main argument is that the colonization, settlement and growth of the AMERICAN COLONIES was a process in which the eventual emergence of the US was only a very dim vision on the far horizon. The book is well written, thoroughly researched and deeply insightful. Although it is colonial history, its tale as told here has as much resonance and meaning for us today as it must have had in living it.
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