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American Colonies: The Settling of North America (The Penguin History of the United States, Volume1) Paperback – Apr 29 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 29 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142002100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142002100
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #204,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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TO WRITE A HISTORY of colonial America used to be easier, because the human cast and the geographic stage were both considered so much smaller. Read the first page
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By A Customer on June 29 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a great book with a comprehensive scope about the settlement of America. What sets it apart from any other text is it's scope and approach. Instead of treating American history as a white anglo saxon story Taylor shows us the full range of human experience on the whole North American continent. While his focus is primarily on what would become the continental US he doesn't neglect Mexico or Canada. He also disrupts the traditional storyline of Anglo Saxon landings on the west caost and progressive advance inward into an "empty continent". Taylor shows us not only the Amerindians who were living in the American continent but the Spanish and MExicans in much of the American west, the French fur traders in the interior and the Russian settlements in the northeast. This is a great book for anyone wanting an overivew of American settlements.
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Format: Paperback
Alan Taylor has written a very thorough history of the peopling of the American continent that clearly takes its inspiration from Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel."
The human and demographic needs which controlled the pace and flow of early migration to North America as well as preordained the outcome of the clash between European and Indian cultures is the backbone of this impressive book. Although political decisions and the ambitions of kings as well as intrepid adventurers started the age of exploration, it was clearly economics which governed the establishment and success of colonies and determined whether or not landings and forts could attract sufficient settlers to become colonies as opposed to remaining lonely outposts garrisoned by impressed soldiers and agents of mercantilists. (This is not to belittle the role of imperial competition and advantage in colonial expansion, but those goals were either in pursuit of wealth or in response to the Spanish, who got started first and reaped an empire-enhancing wealth transfer early on -- one of such dimensions that the competitors had to respond).
Different policies played a role in the success or failure of colonial adventures. The Spanish combined Catholic mission with regard to conversion of Indians with sheer terror to support their efforts. The French, possessed of cold lands productive in animal furs but not in the kind of agriculture that could support large numbers of French transplants, had to rely on alliance and diplomacy with local natives to maintain their presence. Both of these kingdoms governed their colonies directly from the crown, which allowed for uniformity of control as well as mistakes.
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By A Customer on Feb. 26 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent; the only book on colonial history you will ever need (although after reading it, you may be inspired to dig deeper). I wish more historians could write like Talyor. Only one small complaint -- I wish there had been more detailed maps.
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By A Customer on Jan. 9 2004
Format: Paperback
Good synthesis of the colonization of America, including the SW & Pacific NW. Excellent prose. My only complaint is the very abrupt ending, with no conclusion.
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Format: Paperback
Many American history books fall into one or more of three traps: Beginning American history with Columbus in 1492, acting as if the United States was destined for independence from the beginning and limiting colonial history to English influences on the Eastern Seaboard.
This book does not fall into any of these traps. Author Alan Taylor specifically set out to avoid them.
The book begins with the first Americans' migration from Siberia into Alaska and ends with U.S. control of the Hawaiian Islands in 1898. Taylor also includes the Caribbean islands in his colonial history. As he points out, for much of the period before U.S. independence, the West Indies were more important to the British Crown than the mainland colonies. And settlement of the islands affected settlement on the mainland. They traded with each other and the mainland was a safety valve for the crowded islands.
Ironically, the future land of the free was populated by many slaves. The conquering powers -- British, French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish -- enslaved and killed the native population in one of the greatest genocides in history. Since the Native Americans died too quickly to get much forced labor from them, indentured servants came over from Europe. If they made it through five years -- rather unlikely -- they would be free. Soon, desperation for labor brought African slaves.
Taylor explains the push-pull nature of much of this migration. Some came because they were dragged in chains and some came because they were starving in their old homes. The dangers of the Americas gave rise to a different class system in the New World. Color mattered more than class. The whites were forced to band together against real and perceived fears of non-whites. They also played Native American and blacks against each other.
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Format: Paperback
If you're interested in a brief overview of American colonial history, you will arguably not find a better book than Alan Taylor's American Colonies. This work will give you a succinct history, and it provides just the right amount of explanations when needed for the reader who is unfamiliar with the topic to be able to understand the events as they unfold. Overall, it is a great introduction to the topic. It is also excellent as a refresher for the serious student of history or history buff. Taylor did a masterful job of taking such a big story and whittling it down to its essentials in just a little under 500 pages. This book is well written, and it flows in a manner that will keep you interested as the story of American colonization unfolds. My only gripe with this work is that Taylor occasionally leans a bit too heavily toward the interpretation that the Christianized Europeans were the "bad guy" invaders and that they really did an evil thing to the Indian population by trying to subvert Indian culture with European ideology and religion. This is arguably true in many instances; however, Taylor makes no distinction between 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th century political Christianity and biblical Christianity. We in our 21st century secular world often fail to realize that during the time of colonization there was no separation of religion and state in European nations (just as their isn't any separation today in middle-eastern countries for example). As the student of western history knows, religious affiliation went hand in hand with the politics of the day. As a result of Taylor's interpretations, this work will leave the reader more often than not with a negative view of the European colonizers. However, if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be living in the greatest nation in the world.
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