Colonial America

These books convey the essentials of the history of Colonial America.

  • History of America by Eric Daniels. These recorded lectures give an essentialized history of America from its colonial beginnings.
  • Mitre and Sceptre, Transatlantic Faiths, Ideas, Personalities and Politics by Carl Bridenbaugh. (out-of-print, see sources.)
  • Pursuits of Happiness, The Social Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture by Jack P. Greene.
  • The Enlightenment in America by Ernest Cassara. Short on interpretation, but it is intelligible and presents an excellent selection of concrete examples and citations. And it is short, 190 pages in paperback.
  • The Puritan Dilemma by Edmund S. Morgan.
  • France and England in North America by Francis Parkman. Best read in Samuel E. Morison, ed., The Parkman Reader. Parkman is one of the greatest of 19th-century American historians. Excellent depiction of New France, which serves as a laboratory test-case to compare against New England (thus furnishing a good example of the role of ideas in history).

Recommendations from Scott Powell

  • The Discovery of America by John Fiske. Fiske's "The Discovery of America" (2 vols.) has given me a deeper appreciation of the true place of Columbus in world history.(out-of-print, see sources.)
  • Our United States by Woodburn, Moran, and Hill. What makes Our United States a great book is that it is actually designed to facilitate the learning of the past by the reader, not simply to expose him to the sum of what the author knows. It is not merely a "knowledge dump," as one of my students has termed it, like virtually every modern presentation of the past. "Our United States" is a selective telling of the fundamental facts about the story of America which must be grasped first, if the reader aims to embark on a productive study of history. In the words of the authors, "it is a better educative procedure to follow...the main lines of progress that have marked the history of our country than to attempt to carry them all along at the same time. Instead of presenting a mass of miscellaneous and unrelated facts merely in the order of their happening, we have sought, therefore, to bring out in a unified way the great movements in our history, their causes, beginnings, and growth, and to make known the achievements and character of the great men and women who have made the United States what it is today."(out-of-print, see sources.)

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Credits

Captain John Smith, leader of the Roanoke Colony

Captain John Smith, leader of the Roanoke Colony

Pocahantas, from painting by Wm. Sheppard

Pocahantas, from painting by Wm. Sheppard