- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (October 15, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062079603
- ISBN-13: 978-0062079602
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible 1st Edition
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*Starred Review* The ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 provided a common legal and political framework to bind 13 supposedly sovereign states to a stronger federal government. But the U.S. was still more of a theoretical nation than an actual one. The War of 1812 and the Mexican War engendered surges of nationalism, but it required a Civil War to administer the death blow to the most extreme forms of sectionalism. Winchester, the widely acclaimed author, is a native of Great Britain who recently became an American citizen. His focus here is on the more subtle aspects of nation building. He examines the accomplishments of a variety of characters, some famous and some obscure, whose visions and mastery of emerging technologies drew Americans closer together as our geographic size expanded. Thomas Jefferson’s vision of an “empire of liberty” led to the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and the Lewis and Clark expedition. William Maclure, a hyperactive Scottish immigrant, provided a geological survey of vast areas of the eastern U.S. and then promoted the value of a practical education for ordinary citizens. Winchester provides a fascinating portrayal of Samuel Morse, the “man who tamed the lightning,” and the vital role of the telegraph in bridging distances. This is a finely crafted and valuable reminder that the evolution of our united nation was a process often accelerated by unlikely, sometimes eccentric men who operated outside the political sphere. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A 10-city author tour, e-book promotions, academic marketing, and an online publicity campaign round out the publisher’s push behind this celebrated author’s new book. --Jay Freeman
“Entertaining. ... A pleasure.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A rousing tribute to the alliances, agencies, and inventions - from Lewis and Clark to the Internet - that underpin our more perfect union. A stunning, highly original feast of a book.” (STACY SCHIFF, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cleopatra)
“Vivid, valuable. ... An extraordinary, propulsive tale.” (Wall Street Journal)
“An impeccably researched, erudite, well-told tale, peppered with occasional grace notes.” (Miami Herald)
“An elegantly written account... filled with fascinating information.” (Boston Globe)
“[M]esmerizing and fascinating… Mr. Winchester is a master storyteller, and all the individuals, places, and events that he passionately writes about come to life in exquisite detail.” (New York Journal of Books)
“Winchester has found a thematic way to tell this familiar story so it seems fresh and informative, even fascinating.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“Winchester provides surprising insights into our social history, further enriching his narrative with accounts of his personal odysseys around the country. The results are highly recommended for public and school libraries and all readers looking for new and stimulating perspectives on the history of America.” (Library Journal)
“A most genial storyteller” (Las Vegas Weekly)
“[I]nformative and absorbing” (The Oregonian (Portland))
“Simon Winchester never disappoints, and The Men Who United the States is a lively and surprising account of how this sprawling piece of geography became a nation. This is America from the ground up. Inspiring and engaging.” (Tom Brokaw)
“What makes this book so enjoyable is that he ties the development of these advances to some brilliant but idiosyncratic personalities.” (BookPage)
“He … freshens U.S. history by refusing to tell it through the usual suspects.” (Seattle Times)
“The subtitle promises readers a sackful of exciting tales-and the author delivers. This is a clever, engaging and original look at what would seem well-trodden historical paths; but Winchester, delightfully, breaks a fresh trail.” (The Economist)
“The tales he weaves were more engaging than most contemporary fiction.” (Zócalo Public Square)
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Top customer reviews
The most amazing part of this book is that Winchester is able to tell the story of Lewis & Clark's expedition in a new light after nearly 20 years of others writing about that bicentennial celebration. I had not thought about the value of bringing along a women and child to show the peaceful intentions, or how miffed Jefferson was when he read that Canadians had explored the West and not even documented the trip well.
Winchester also writes himself into the story at times. He is no Bill Bryson but Winchester shows up in the early days of The Tonight Show, on a farm, and teaching a young boy and his pet lamb how to use an early computer. These Winchester books are great. I have read them all and never know where the man will turn up next.
To sum up his work in the epilog, he makes some rather contradictory analogies. After he celebrates how the establishment of a newspaper has brought about community within his small isolated town, he postulates that the Native Americans tribes had no community because of their isolation. His work concentrates on the events in science that helped unite our country’s individual states but ignores the existence of confederacies of tribes such as the Iroquois, the northwest Pontiac confederacies and others. He lists various tribes throughout North America that had not contact with each other as if that was a detriment; in other words, he lumps all tribes (our first immigrants) together similarly as Parkman would have lumped all tribes as “savages”. He says there was “little sense” of community among the separate tribes. But even white visitors to these tribes who experienced Native American tribal life could conclude that their sense of community and use of natural resources trumps highly the destructive path of the modern, united civilization.
Then, in the epilog, Winchester rewrites history prior to the birth of the United State, though clearly outside his subject matter. The separate tribes , who had no knowledge of far away tribes, had no sense of “oneness” , as if that was a requirement for community success. Then Winchester glosses over 200 years of murder, exploitation, exporting of Old Work criminals, “plantations “ of colonies, extensive use of Native American tribes by European imperialist and religious empires as weapons, extorting their property and land and he states “then came the emigrants, then the nation”.
The book is a wonderful history of how exploration and science has helped us learn not only about the country but about ourselves. But including his own take on history prior to its birth and claiming the importance of immigration in its birth , when in fact the American Revolution was a civil war between colonies and the King, ignores the historical truth. Winchester placing such priority on immigration, himself being an immigrant who became a citizen, places him in the same trap has Parkman’s New England background flavoring treatment of Native Americans.
The book is a worthy, informative read, but be sure to recognize the invasion of the author’s political and historical views from the facts presented.
What about the role of women? He only mentions the importance of Sacajawea and her role.
Winchester somehow brings the past closer to the present than it was before. The reader feels a part of the mistakes and discoveries that got us where we are. We can empathize with those who are trying to form a more perfect union, often failing because of the imperfections in them and in ourselves.