From an acclaimed historian of early America, a compelling account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to the British colonies of North America and their involvements with each other and the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard.
The native inhabitants, of course, were the real first Americans. They were extremely varied in culture, customs, and languages, had extremely difficult, perhaps Spartan upbringings for their children, and occasionally engaged in extremely brutal warfare, including torture. They were also adept at agriculture and mixed crop usage, which the early European colonists were solely lacking.
From there, Bailyn starts with Virginia and makes his way north to New England. The Virginia colony had poor leadership and barely survived famines and massacres (Most notably the Powhatans in 1622). The former was due to incompetence and bad weather, the latter was due to incompetence, poor defenses, and tribal conflicts which were mismanaged.
The Maryland colony, led by a Lord Baltimore, didn't have as many difficulties with the natives, but instead had a bad disease and malaria problem. It was also a haven for escaped Catholics and some non-conformist Protestant sects after the English Civil War.
The Dutch, of course, founded some colonies in present-day New York, then known as New Amsterdam. They, too, had brutal conflicts with the Native Americans. It's interesting to note that already, the colony which would become New York City was already heterogeneous in population - Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, English, Welsh, and some Africans, slaves or otherwise.
One interesting and unusual assertion is made about the Swedish colonies, small in population and often overlooked. He discovers that almost half of their colonies were populated by Finns, already accustomed to difficult terrain and indigenous peoples - the nomadic animistic reindeer-herding Sami of northern Scandinavia.
New England is an area Mr. Bailyn has covered before, and well. This is well-trod ground, as he recounts more religious schisms among the Puritans, the intensity of their communal religious devotion, and, of course, their tendency to torture dogmatic opponents.
Only a handful of the new colonists were nobility, and only a portion of the others brought families with them. A large segment of this new population were disaffected young men with some craft, hoping to build a new life or to escape from the wars of the old world.
Bailyn only briefly touches upon the topics of slavery and forced human trafficking to America. Of course, slavery is millenia older than the American colonies. That, it seems, is a topic for another book. What can be said, though, is that violence, and uncertainty were major factors for all those in this new world - colonists, nobles, explorers, families, Natives all. Such is life on the frontier. Few of us would be here without it.