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American Colonies: The Settlement of North America to 1800 (The Penguin History of the United States) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 31. Juli 2003

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"Formidable...provokes us to contemplate teh ways in which residents of North America have dealt with diversity." --The New York Times Book Review

"A superb overview of colonial America." -- Christian Science Monitor

"Compelling, readable, and fresh, American Colonies is perhaps the most brilliant piece of synthesis in recent American historical writing." —Phillip J. Deloria, associate professor of history and American culture, University of Michigan


This volume starts with the earliest years of human colonization of the American continent and environs, as it follows the Siberian migrations across the Bering Strait 15,000 years ago. It ends in the period around 1800 when the rough outline of contemporary North America could be perceived. Dropping the usual Anglocentric description of North America's fate, Taylor conveys the far more vivid and startling story of the competing interests - Spanish, French, English, Native, Russian - that over the centuries shaped and reshaped both the continent and its "suburbs" in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

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Format: Taschenbuch
This book is well worth the investment. I didn't give it five stars only because I save them for truly outstanding works. In any case this is a good synthesis history of the colonization of North America. It is written for non-specialists, but makes excellent use of micro-level studies. The book focuses not only on the Spanish, Russian, French, Dutch, Swedish and English colonization of America, and their interactions with Native Americans, but it also takes a differentiated look at English colonization patterns in New England (with the Puritans), Virginia (with a more middle and upper-class Anglican group), but also the Caribbean. This last is especially interesting because Taylor also talks about the differences in slave holding culture in Virginia and Barbados (where the extraordinarily brutal variant developed and was eventually transferred to South Carolina). This book is fascinating for the general reader, but is even students of American history should benefit from the broad perspective of different modes of colonization and interactions between the various colonizers and the Native Americans.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 von 5 Sternen 138 Rezensionen
180 von 195 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An absolute must read. 16. Dezember 2001
Von J. Myrick - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
I first noticed the Native American void in history books just a few years ago. I was trying to find which tribes lived near Frederick Co. Maryland, and the information simply wasn't there. I am a hired researcher, so when I say the information wasn't there, I mean that it would take the average person about a year to track down anything at all on the topic. There is a real void in the history of the Americas and there are very few books that treat pre-colonial, non-European American history with any sense of depth or fairness.
This book truly gives you a full-scale idea of what shaped the Americas into what they are today. Finally you can read about what was happening with the native population during the time of contact and conquest. Finally you can get an idea about the environmental and economical impacts of colonialization, both in the Americas and in Europe.
This book is truly a history of "actions" and not "thoughts". Often what we learn in American schools today is what the Puritans were thinking about doing, or what our founding fathers wanted to create out of the Americas. Instead, we learn about the actions they actually took. Which colonies took up the practice of slavery, and why? How succesful where the Puritans in being pure? What was Colombus really thinking?
While the book feels slanted to the leftist mentality, I think you'll find the author treats all groups fairly, focused on their actions and not their intentions. The few books I've read that tried to cover a more holistic history of the Americas usually go too far in the opposite direction, painting all colonists as depraved ravagers, and all natives as white-washed saints. Instead, this book portrays both peoples in their full depth, portraying a complicated, terrible and all too human history.
While I mostly address the native vs. European issue in this review, there is much more going on here. Impacts of trade, morality, religion, government all play out. This is the book we all should have read in our Intro to American History class.
To finish up, this is one of those rare books that I think everyone should read. We will never understand how we can do better unless we learn what we have done wrong. I was truly floored at how much new information was here. Why is it so difficult to find books that cover the full scope of U.S. history? How can we understand what's going on in our country, if we don't understand how it even came to exist?
This book is easy to read, well-written, and amazingly well-researched. If you want a real idea about what shaped the Americas into what they are today, this is what you should be reading. (10 out of 10)
64 von 69 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A Highly Informative and Accessible History 9. Juli 2002
Von Graham Phillips - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
In "American Colonies," historian Alan Taylor has created an easily accessible yet highly informative overview of the crucial first era of the history of North America. Taylor does an admirable job of elaborating on the simple framework of names and dates that bore so many contemporary students; he discusses geography, agriculture, trade, as well as the cultures and religions of the myriad groups (both native and European) that created colonial America.
Rather than attempting to cover the entire continent in a continuous chronology, Taylor breaks the book into 19 chapters, each describing one geographic area during a given time period (e.g. "Virginia 1570-1650," "New England 1600-1700"). I found this organizational choice to be very effective; it makes the scope of the topic manageable and also allows one to easily research a specific area. The chapter setup is all the better due to the content choices Taylor has made. Rather than focus solely on the 13 British colonies, the book also spends time on the Spanish and French settlements. I fear that many people think Columbus discovered North America in 1492 and then nothing happened until the Pilgrims landed in 1620. Taylor corrects that misperception by including two chapters on the Spanish settlements in Mexico, New Mexico, and Florida before even touching on the British colonies. There are also two chapters on New France and Canada that give greater meaning to the Seven Years War. I was most pleased, however, with the chapter discussing the British West Indies, a geographic area completely ignored by many US History courses. Yet as Taylor explains, the West Indies at that time were FAR more valuable to the Crown than the mainland colonies! These chapters are a much needed corrective, but they are not given disproportionate coverage: a large majority of the book focuses on what was to become the continental United States.
The story of the early United States is largely a story of European-Indian interactions, another topic Taylor handles well. Rather than taking Native Americans for granted, he spends the first chapter explaining their origins, the migrations across the Bering Strait, and their lives before European contact. But the eventual clash of cultures is the dominant story and Taylor states the case bluntly: beginning with the Taino on Hispaniola (p. 38-39), Europeans conquered, murdered, and enslaved native peoples on an unthinkable scale. But Taylor lets the evidence speak for itself and does not lecture the reader or take the opportunity to moralize. Furthermore, he dispels several myths about Indians that seem to be creeping into popular belief. Indians were not inherently peaceful peoples: the Five Nation Iroquois had gruesome rituals of torture ("The seventeenth century was a merciless time for the defeated on either side of the Atlantic" [p. 103]) and raided the Huron to near extinction. Nor were they pre-modern environmentalists: "Natives usually showed restraint, not because they were ecologically minded in the twentieth century sense, but because spirits, who could harm people, lurked in the animals and plants" (p. 19). All in all, I thought the book presented a very balanced and detailed account of the Native Americans.
Although I read this book on my own time, I could not help but appreciate what a great book it would be for students, either high school or college. (It is the first volume of The Penguin History of the United States, edited by Eric Foner.) First, Taylor does not assume a great deal of prior knowledge and goes out of his way to clearly explain concepts that other books might not. For example, Taylor explains the English Parliament in a way that would be very helpful to those not familiar with British history while not boring those of us who know more (p. 120). The Glorious Revolution (p. 278) and the advent of Quakers (p. 264) are both handled in a similarly informative way. The book also includes the relevant maps for each chapter, a great boon to students familiarizing themselves with geography. Finally, the book is based almost exclusively on secondary sources. This point concerned me at first, but I came to love the fact that for any topic I could look in the extensive bibliography and find an entire book on that particular subject.
Given this praise, why only four stars? Basically, I'm stingy with the five star reviews. While I found this book extremely informative and easy to read, it was never thrilling. This lack of excitement is no fault of the author, the topic is just too broad to be gripping: colonial America covers too much time, too much space, and too many figures (none of whom can be adequately fleshed out in such a broad survey). Ultimately I found "American Colonies" to be a consistently good book (perhaps the best on the subject as a whole) but not an excellent book. I do, however, very much look forward to reading Professor Taylor's other book, "William Cooper's Town," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.
48 von 51 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Not a traditional history of colonial North America... 6. März 2002
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
...something much broader, deeper, richer, and ultimately much more satisfying. Histories of colonial North America usually have as their starting points the arrival of the British and end with the American Revolution. Not so here. Taylor's scope is broad enough to include the history of early Native Americans, not just at the time of discovery, but hundreds of years earlier. Even more interestingly this view is not limited to the Native Americans in what would eventually become the US, but looks at those living throughout North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
The richness of this history comes by way of the various cultures that are included. From the perspective of the East coast of the continent, the story of colonialism involves the British and the Native Americans. When the view extends North to Canada then we include the French. What Taylor does is show the perspective from all angles, and this means that Spanish and Dutch influences were also important, the former especially so in the West.
Chapters on the history of different regions rather than single countries or islands highlights the fact that there were diverse influences which oftentimes overlapped and interacted. There are chapters on the Carolinas, the West Indies, New England, the Pacific Coast and Chesapeake region. Certainly not left out of this analysis is the huge role Africa and its sons and daughters played in the settlement of our continent.
This is the first Volume in the Penguin History of the United States. It seems ironic then that the books main argument is that the colonization, settlement and growth of the AMERICAN COLONIES was a process in which the eventual emergence of the US was only a very dim vision on the far horizon. The book is well written, thoroughly researched and deeply insightful. Although it is colonial history, its tale as told here has as much resonance and meaning for us today as it must have had in living it.
44 von 52 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Readable, versatile, and useful history of early America 15. Juli 2003
Von W. Young - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
I expected something different from the title, "American Colonies" and from a quick scan of the table of contents. From this, I anticipated the standard, stock account of the settlement of North America. In buying this book, I hoped to find a history written with deep political, economic, and military insights, as one might find in other histories dealing with this time. Having finished the book, I am pleasently surprised that it did not meet my expectations.
"American Colonies" is written more from an anthropological standpoint than from a more traditonal perspective. The result is that "American Colonies" provides a general account of the American colonial ordeal that makes it a good balance to other histories and other viewpoints. It is a useful and versatile book and a good addition to one's bookshelf.
Although his historic and geographic scope is broad - he covers just about every aspect of colonial history of North America (he really glosses over the Vikings), the scale of the research and point of view is limited. Through the bibliography, it appears that Taylor focuses on recent scholarship for his book, citing works predominantly written in the past thirty years. This is not to say of course that "American Colonies" suffers from this narrow approach; it doesn't, of course, but it does explain the somewhat narrow focus at times in the author's ability to address other topics in depth.
Therefore, I wouldn't make this book your seminal work if you had to name a single book to read on the subject. It is most effective if it is taken into account with other works on the period, the book's mostly enthnocentric, cultural/societal, antrhopological perspectives provide a nice complement to other histories, giving a more complete treatment of a complex era - the tail end of the age of exploration and beginning of the the colonial period - in world history.
With comments about the limited depth of the book's focus already stated, "American Colonies" does provide a good overview and breakdown of the historical elements and issues that, in part, shaped the future of the continent. What is particularly nice about Taylor's book is that he takes seemingly disparite events in North American history - the conquest of New Mexico, the settlement of the eastern seaboard, and the travails of the French along the St. Lawrence, for example - and puts them in one book. The chapters, as others have mentioned in their reviews, are relatively short and the writing style is definitely readable.
Despite its utility and versatile, "American Colonies" is not without flaws. Although the author is an acknowledged and lauded expert on the period, the bibliography is weak and not authoritative, thereby limiting its value. The maps are a little wanting; they have little detail and are of little help.
13 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Good review of things I forgot (or maybe never knew) 4. August 2004
Von C. Ryan - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Taylor provides an extensive - 526 pages including bibliography and index - overview of European colonial initiatives in the Atlantic, North America and parts of the Caribbean from the early 1400s - when Portuguese and Spanish proto-colonists got their feet wet, so to speak, by colonizing the Azores, Canaries and Medeiras - through Spanish and Russian efforts on the West Coast in the early 1800s. Substantial space is given to colonial efforts of the French, Dutch, and Spanish as well as English settlement in the eastern Caribbean and the east coast of what eventually became the United States.

A tragic theme throughout the book is the encounter between Europeans and Native Americans that decimated the latter, primarily through inadvertent introduction of diseases but also through warfare, slavery, appropriation of their land and destruction of the environment on which the Indians relied. Taylor also describes how the Indians repeatedly collaborated with or benefited from European traders and colonists when they perceived - often erroneously - that the Europeans' actions benefited their own economic and strategic interests. And, yes, the Indians traded in slaves - either other Indians or Africans - as well. The role and some of the impact of enslaved Africans on Colonial development is also described throughout the book.

Regarding the English colonies that became the original thirteen United States it's helpful for Taylor to remind that most of the colonies had unique beginnings that influenced their cultures and economies and politics for many years after the American revolution. For example, South Carolina essentially began as a colony of the fabulously wealthy colony of Barbados, and initiated use of enslaved Africans on a scale that dwarfed the Chesapeake tobacco plantations. And Pennsylvania started relatively late but grew quickly and prosperously as the initial English Quakers were quickly outnumbered by industrious German family farmers as opposed to indentures servants or slaves.

I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Euro-American settlement, the formative history of the United States and the interaction of Europeans with Native Americans.
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