The Birth of America: From Before Columbus to the Revolution

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9780060750909: The Birth of America: From Before Columbus to the Revolution

In this provocative account of colonial America, William R. Polk explores the key events, individuals, and themes of this critical period. With vivid descriptions of the societies that people from Europe came from and with an emphasis on what they believed they were going to, Polk introduces the native Indians encountered in the New World and the black Africans who were brought across the Atlantic.

With insightful analysis, he also discusses the dual truths of colonial societies' "growing up" and "growing apart." As John Adams would point out to Thomas Jefferson, the long years that witnessed the formation of our national character and the growth of our spirit of independence were indeed the real revolution. That story forms the basis of The Birth of America. In addition to its discussion of the influence the British had on the colonies, The Birth of America covers the pivotal roles played by the Spanish, French, and Dutch in early America.

From the fearful crossing of the stormy Atlantic to the growth of the early settlements, to the French and Indian War and the unrest of the 1760s, William Polk brilliantly traces the progress of the colonies to the point where itwas no longer possible to recapture the past and the break with England was inevitable. America had been born.

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About the Author:

William R. Polk taught Middle Eastern history and politics and Arabic at Harvard until 1961, when he became a member of the Policy Planning Council of the U.S. Department of State. In 1965, he became Professor of History at the University of Chicago, where he established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. His many books include The Birth of America and Understanding Iraq.

From Publishers Weekly:

Starred Review. Although Polk's book contains little new information about early American history, he synthesizes a dazzling social history of early America. Polk reveals an evolving land at the mercies of various foreign governments, each with startlingly different visions of how to use the New World. The Spanish, for example, were less concerned with grabbing land than the British; Spanish explorers conquered small parts of America in order to establish sugar plantations worked by the enslaved native inhabitants. Polk paints the diversity of life among precolonial Native Americans as well as the African roots of black slaves; these cultural specifics give his history a human touch. His gripping account of the dangers of the transatlantic crossing—darkness between decks, filth, vermin—reminds us forcefully of the fears and risks that accompanied the hope of starting over in a new world. He likens the colonies to a daughter growing up and growing apart from her mother during the later 17th century as the colonies developed their own governments, industries and militias. Polk, an independent historian (The Elusive Peace), is a masterful storyteller who takes us into a strange world and helps us to understand it. 11 b&w illus., 6 maps. (Apr. 7)
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