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The Americans: The Colonial Experience [Paperback]

Daniel J. Boorstin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 12 1964 Caravelle Edition (Book 1)
Winner of the Bancroft Prize. "A superb panorama of life in America from the first settlements on through the white hot days of the Revolution." - Bruce Lancaster, Saturday Review

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The Americans: The Colonial Experience + The Americans: The National Experience + The Americans: The Democratic Experience
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The first book in a trilogy--and in many respects the best of the bunch--The Colonial Experience is an essential interpretation of how the habits of people who lived more than two centuries ago shaped the lives of modern Americans. Boorstin shows how an undiscovered continent shattered long-standing traditions and utopian fantasies with the hard demands of everyday life far from the sophisticated centers of European civilization: "Old categories were shaken up, and new situations revealed unsuspected uses for old knowledge," writes Boorstin. He starts with a series of penetrating essays on the Puritans of Massachusetts, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, the philanthropists of Georgia, and the planters of Virginia, then tackles a set of diffuse topics that range from astronomy to language to medicine in fascinating vignettes.

The Colonial Experience is must reading for anybody interested in the development of the American character. --John J. Miller

About the Author

Daniel J Boorstin was born in 1914 and educated at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford. He is Librarian of Congress Emeritus, having directed the US national library from 1979-1987. He had previously been Director of the National Museum for History and Technology and of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He taught at the University of Chicago for twenty-five years. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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NEVER WAS A PEOPLE more sure that it was on the right track. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Americans Before America May 16 2004
By Vincent
Format:Paperback
When Boorstin named his epic trilogy The Americans rather than American History or History of the American People, he greeted the reader with a different approach to history. He arranged his brief chapters thematically rather than chronologically, while maintaining a high level of detail, and thus created a masterwork of compression, a talent Boorstin repeated later in The Creators and The Discoverers.
Volume One covers the American experience from the New England colonies through the War for Independence. The thematic approach might suggest that the question, "What is an American?" can be answered by a grocery list of ideas. Yet if there is one truth about Americans it is that they reveal themselves more in doing than in philosophizing. Unburdened by the systematizing of the European ideologue, they demonstrate repeatedly that they are among the most tolerant people who have inhabited the earth.
For Massachusetts Puritans, orthodoxy and tradition had solved most theoretical questions, freeing them from the theological debates of their European counterparts. The Virginia aristocrats, a remarkable pool of talent, applied the practical skills of running a plantation to running a colony, creating a haven of toleration and rapid growth. By contrast, the fanaticism, utopianism, and pacifism of the Quakers failed to protect Pennsylvania from Indian attacks and drove the Quakers from power. Good intentions did nothing to fix the failed humanitarianism of the Georgia colony.
Americans were great naturalists, learning by experience, experiment, and the evidence of the senses. Where books existed at all, they were more likely to be farming almanacs or medical manuals than heavy tomes in literature or metaphysics.
Americans were least likely to wage war over sacred land or a Bible verse.
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2.0 out of 5 stars For ages 19 and above Aug. 30 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Well... being a seventeen-year-old and not real big on reading, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who has seen "Dumb and Dumber" more than once and believes that it deserves every award that it qualifies for--like I do. This book is more for those who are in or past college and have decided that they want to "experience" American history in a more in-depth perspective (to those my age: I'm not implying VR). It is, however, well written. Daniel Boorstin did a great job and kudos to him. He definitely deserved the accolade which came in the form of the Bancroft Prize--but I still don't like it. Nevertheless, I finished the book--eventhough I have chronic thoughts about burning it--but only because it was a mandatory assignment and required an essay. If you have enough courage and are willing to purchase this book, you better have a lot of patience (and make sure to hide the matches).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, enthralling, ambitious Aug. 14 1998
Format:Paperback
Boorstin examines the influences Old World ideas had on the New World of America. He pays close attention to how the Old World ideas were transplanted and changed in America. Boorstin demonstrates that this change was present with most every institution or idea brought from Europe to America. The Americans is the winner of the Bancroft Prize, a prestigious award for works in History. And rightly so. Boorstin's The Colonial Experience is extremely well organized, thorough, and related the history of America to me in a contemporary style. I applaud Boorstin, for he has succeeded in writing an excellent book on the history of early America that even a fledgling history student, like myself, could fully grasp without losing any detail.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting perspectives Aug. 27 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This portrait of different aspects of colonial American social and governmental tendencies is a very interesting read. Mr. Boorstin's theses are well supported with historical information. His arguments made me reexamine some of my preconceptions about the colonial period and consider in a new light the impact of early American history on the present. That said, the author is not the most scintilating writer among historians. Also, the book ends abrubtly without a summary chapter, which would have been useful. It appears Boorstin performed surgery on a larger _The Americans_ work, slicing it in thirds, without gathering up the entrails and applying a suture.
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2.0 out of 5 stars an uneven hodgepodge July 1 2003
Format:Paperback
This is not a coherent history, but a series of disjointed stories, all related to the original settlements in the US. THere is virtually no analysis, only poorly documented anecdotes. SOme of them are very good - the chapter on the export of ice from New England to the Caribbean will stick in my mind for the rest of my life - and some much less. From the reviews, it would seem that people liked Boorstin's approach very much. It grated on me as I expected something more from a writer and historian of Boorstin's reputation.
REcommended as pass time reading rather than serious historical research.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History at it Best Aug. 15 2003
Format:Paperback
This is a young work of Boorstin and even years later it still lives up to its greatness. The first book of a trilogy, it sets the tone for the two to follow. We are not given a dry reading of dates and places and wars and settlements. Instead it is a readable story of movements, nations but most the individuals - both known and unknown - whose influence continues with us to this day.
This mix of biographies and historical happenings makes for an enjoyable, entertaining and enlightening work.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is why Boorstin is one of my favorites
I love to read American history and Daniel Boorstin is one of the best. After reading this book, I had a much better understanding of the American colonial experience. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2001 by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars The Colonial Experience
I was assigned to read this book for AP History over the summer. There is a lot of interesting and accurate information in this book, however, at some points there is far too... Read more
Published on Sept. 19 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars informative but tedious
this book was assigned reading for an AP US history class. It had a lot of information -- more than was neccessary -- and lots of tiny details that seemed unimportant. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for American Consumer History
Boorstin outlines the fundamentals and development of American consumerism and capitalism of the 19th Century. Read more
Published on June 8 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars the book
this book was well written for a historical book, but unless you have to read it for a history class i wouldn't reccommend it to anyone.
Published on March 1 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Read
Once again Boorstin has demonstrated his brilliant analytic historical vision. This book is a well documented presentation of the factors and characteristics of the colonial... Read more
Published on Jan. 26 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars The book was good!
The book was very well written
Published on Dec 4 1998
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