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Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies 1St Edition Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0684192697
ISBN-10: 0684192691
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this important reference work, the European conquest of Canada and the United States is chronicled and analyzed in vast detail by 193 European and American scholars from a wide range of disciplines. Two hundred seventy-four topical and thematic essays cover all aspects of colonial political, social, economic, and cultural life, including a large number of articles that present competing scholarly interpretations of different subjects. All this is accented by a detailed chronology, useful maps, cross references, regular and annotated bibliographies, and a fine subject index. The full, worldwide impact of the peopling of North America--beginning with the first inhabitants crossing from Asia to Alaska, moving through the colonization by Europeans and enslavement of Africans, and ending with Canadian, American, and Mexican independence and the final subjugation of native peoples--is powerfully presented in these three volumes. No other reference set or monograph compares with this original, handsomely constructed, and infinitely fascinating work. Chief editor Cooke (Lafayette Coll.) and his co-editors and contributors are to be commended for their efforts. A required purchase for medium and large public libraries and all academic libraries.
- Stephen L. Hupp, Capital Univ. Lib., Columbus, Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This unique reference set is the first to provide comprehensive coverage of the North American colonies. Unlike earlier reference books that focused almost exclusively on British and French North America, the present set describes in considerable detail the colonial histories of Dutch, Spanish, and Russian America as well.

Depending on the starting and ending points, the history of the North American colonies spans 200 to 300 years. Alaska, for instance, was not purchased by the U.S. from Russia until 1867. This set encompasses French-speaking Canada and the lands of the Louisiana Purchase, the Spanish borderlands (which stretched from Florida to California), as well as the British colonies along the Atlantic coast. The focus is primarily on the four principal imperial powers: France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Spain. The goal of the set is to provide comprehensive coverage and comparative analysis of settlements. Editor Cooke is a retired historian from Lafayette College and coeditor of the 13-volume History of the American Colonies. The editorial board includes specialists on each of the four principal imperial powers, including William J. Eccles, an established authority on the history of New France, and Ram{¢}on A. Guti{‚}errez, a specialist on the Spanish borderlands. The 274 topical and thematic essays, ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 words, were written by 193 contributors from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Western Europe. Their specialties include history, cultural anthropology, folklore, theology, archaeology, fine arts, and linguistics. All articles are signed, and all include bibliographies, many of which are annotated.

Entries are not in alphabetical order, but in a classified arrangement. Volume 1 opens with articles on the natural environment and Native Americans. Focus then shifts to Old World expansion, colonial settings, government and law, and economic life. Volume 2 begins with a chapter on labor systems and then describes racial interaction, war and diplomacy, the social fabric, folkways, and families and the life course. The last volume encompasses articles on the life of the mind (e.g., literature, libraries, the press), science and technology, the arts, education, and religion and concludes with the chapter "Toward Independence."

While sometimes the four empires are treated in a comparative essay, in most cases separate articles for each subject discuss the British colonies, New Netherlands, New France (Canada and Louisiana are treated both together and separately), and the Spanish borderlands, where appropriate coverage of Native Americans is included. For example, in the section on schools and schooling, separate articles describe the situation in the British colonies (13 pages), the Dutch colony (2 pages), the French colonies (3 pages), and the Spanish colonies (4 pages).

Among the particular merits of this new encyclopedia are its detailed coverage of Native Americans, African Americans, women, and smaller ethnic enclaves. Articles generally incorporate the latest scholarship and treat both social and political history. Among the most interesting articles are those on folkways, which describe colonial dress, manners, and travel and lodging, and on family structure, which discusses sexual mores and behavior and childhood and adolescence. The author of the article on sexual mores and behavior notes that "the bed chamber is the least accessible room in the house" and cautions the reader against drawing too many conclusions from the exceptions typically recorded in history. Another author describes the life of colonial women as a "relentless cycle of conception, pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, weaning, continued to menopause or death." Overall, the writing is crisp and engaging. For environmentalists, the fascinating article Ecological Consequences of Economic Development describes the decimation of the beaver, decline of deer in the Southeast, depletion of forests, soil erosion, and the impact of old-world species.

While every attempt has been made to provide broad coverage of the four major colonial powers, this is not always achieved. For example, articles on the French and Spanish experience describe the special region of expertise of the author, sometimes focusing on Canada while providing cursory coverage of French Louisiana, or describing the Spanish Southwest while excluding Spanish Louisiana and West Florida.

Overall, however, the encyclopedia is a remarkable achievement, providing the first comprehensive coverage of the colonial experience of this continent. The text is enhanced with a series of black-and-white maps drawn to scale, numerous cross-references, a chronology extending from Erik the Red's settlement in Greenland in 985 to the British North America Act of 1867, and a detailed index. It is an essential purchase for reference collections in academic libraries and should be considered by public and high school libraries, too.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 2397 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company; 1St Edition edition (December 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684192691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684192697
  • Product Dimensions: 11.8 x 9.2 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,858,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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