American colonies

by Alan Taylor

Paper Book, 2001



Call number

E188 .T35 2001


New York : Viking, 2001.


In the first volume in the Penguin History of the United States series, edited by Eric Foner, Alan Taylor challenges the traditional story of colonial history by examining the many cultures that helped make America, from the native inhabitants from millennia past, through the decades of Western colonization and conquest, and across the entire continent, all the way to the Pacific coast. Transcending the usual Anglocentric version of our colonial past, he recovers the importance of Native American tribes, African slaves, and the rival empires of France, Spain, the Netherlands, and even Russia in the colonization of North America. Moving beyond the Atlantic seaboard to examine the entire continent, American Colonies reveals a pivotal period in the global interaction of peoples, cultures, plants, animals, and microbes. In a vivid narrative, Taylor draws upon cutting-edge scholarship to create a timely picture of the colonial world characterized by an interplay of freedom and slavery, opportunity and loss.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
This is the 20th anniversary of the book and it has held up well. Taylor makes a point there is more these 300 years (16th to 18th centuries) then the 13 colonies. Indians and African slaves were not mere footnotes but central players. Besides the British there is French, Spanish and Russian
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history, not to mention a polyglot of other nations who settled in North America. The geographic range is vast from Alaska to the sugar islands in the Caribbean. When viewed as a whole there is a broad perspective of what happens when an over populated Europe discovers a fertile new continent. Not everything needed to turn out the way it did - Europeans could have rejected slavery and treated Indians better - but the exchange of disease, food and technology were unavoidable outcomes, with disease playing the biggest role killing off 90% of the native population. The book is by necessity broad and shallow, but intellectually stimulating. Entire books of material are found in a sentence or two. Those areas I have previously read more deeply about I appreciated the reinforcement and context. Those that are new to me I found the summary at times too brief to leave an impression. Reading history is the work of a lifetime, this is a useful map. I'll probably never think of the word "Colonial" the same, being of such variety and scope. It's the central thesis, and it succeeds.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
This is the most comprehensive book on pre-Revolutionary America that I've ever read. It covers everywhere and virtually everyone, from the Pilgrims that you always read about, to the slaves, women, and native people that are usually overlooked. It is sometimes grim reading. Europeans were
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frequently cruel to the natives. There's a lot about the conditions the slaves lived in. So many massacres, so much bloodshed.

But it's not all dismal. Some of it talks about politics, land speculation, exploration, trade, and social customs. Even if you thought you knew about pre-Revolutionary America, you're going to find a lot of stuff you didn't know. I enjoyed listening to this, but I think it would have been better in print with some maps. Fortunately, I know basic American geography so I was able to follow along. I really recommend this one.
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LibraryThing member librisissimo
Outstanding example of detailed and useful historical narrative. So far as I could tell, it did not have any partisan ax to grind (I could be obtuse), as it presented both good and bad incidents dispassionately.
LibraryThing member stillatim
A model work of new-style history. Taylor's book isn't a straight narrative, but it has the grip of one thanks to his eye for detail, his better than passable prose (which, in academic history, is... well, that's very high praise), and his even-handedness. The settling of North America was not a
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pleasant thing. As ever, the test for a work of history is whether it makes you want to read other books on the same topic, and this one did that in spades.

A friend has done an excellent review of this book, so I don't have to say anything else.
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LibraryThing member usuallee
Fascinating, well written history of the colonial period. Taylor does a nice job of evenhandedly describing the various colonist vs native, colonist vs mother country, and white vs. black issues. I learned a lot. It even covers Russia's forays into Alaska, which I didn't know anything about. It was
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on such a macro-level that it breezed past facinating issues all too quickly, but it did its job as a survey really well.My interest level flagged in the descriptions of religious issues, but that is a matter of personal taste, the effects of religion were certainly important.
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Commonwealth Club of California Book Awards (Gold Medal — Nonfiction — 2001)


Original publication date

2001 (Viking Penguin)

Physical description

xvii, 526 p.; 25 cm


0670872822 / 9780670872824


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