Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
A compelling, fresh account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to British North America, their involvements with each other, and their struggles with the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard.
The immigrants were a mixed multitude. They came from England, the Netherlands, the German and Italian states, France, Africa, Sweden, and Finland, and they moved to the western hemisphere for different reasons, from different social backgrounds and cultures. They represented a spectrum of religious attachments. In the early years, their stories are not mainly of triumph but of confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize situations and recapture lost worlds. It was a thoroughly brutal encounter—not only between the Europeans and native peoples and between Europeans and Africans, but among Europeans themselves, as they sought to control and prosper in the new configurations of life that were emerging around them.
This weighty book distills a lifetime of learning of one of our most authoritative historians of colonial America. Continuing his exploration of the demographic origins of the colonies (begun in The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction), Harvard professor emeritus Bailyn offers a history of the colonies built up of brilliant portraits of the people who interacted in these strange and fearsome lands. Much of it is the story of the costs, savagery, terrors, and conflicts that attended the establishment of European outposts in what became the U.S. This is not your school-book colonial history; there's no Anglo-American triumphalism in its pages. Rather, Bailyn describes "confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility" and the extraordinary heterogeneity of the white and Indian populations. Only a historian as penetrating and stylish of pen as Bailyn could convince you that there was something important to say about the few Finns settling in the colonies. And the squeamish should be forewarned: the true barbarousness of people, European as well as Indian, and white against white, is appalling and shows how thin the veneer of civilization often is and was in the colonies' early decades. An extraordinary work of profound seriousness, characteristic of its author. 25 illus., 12 maps.