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Historical Background

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Suggested Reading


Explorers and Settlers

General Works

BAKELESS, JOHN E. The Eyes of Discovery—The Pageant of North America as Seen by the First Explorers. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1950. Includes numerous and extensive quotations relating the marvels of discovery in the words of those who first saw the Western Hemisphere. Consists mainly of descriptions of flora, fauna, and geographical features.

BOLTON, HERBERT E. and THOMAS M. MARSHALL. The Colonization of North America, 1492-1783. New York: Macmillan, 1936. A concise but thorough account of the exploration and colonization of the continent and the international rivalries that were involved.

BREBNER, JOHN B. The Explorers of North America, 1492-1806. New York: Macmillan, 1933; reprinted in paperback 1955. A well-written work of careful scholarship that views as a whole the significant explorations of the continent. Includes quotations from contemporary narratives.

CROUSE, NELLIS M. In Quest of the Western Ocean. New York: Morrow, 1928. Studies European attempts to find a water passage through or around the American continental block. Also sheds light on motivations for European expansion.

DE VOTO, BERNARD A. The Course of Empire. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952. One of a number of attempts to tie the various explorations of North America into a meaningful whole, this book is written with power and persuasion and is often considered to be De Voto's major work. It has literary merit, but its historical value has been highly praised and disparagingly criticized.

FOLMER, HENRY. Franco-Spanish Rivalry in North America, 1524-1763. Vol. VII of the Spain in the West series. Glendale: Arthur Clark, 1953. Excellent work. Stresses international rivalries and diplomatic maneuverings.

NEWTON, ARTHUR P. The Great Age of Discovery. London: University of London, 1932. Contains monographs by various British historians on a number of explorers, from Vasco da Gama to Frobisher. Analyzes explorers against the background of their own times.

PRIESTLEY, HERBERT I. The Coming of the White Man, 1492-1848. Vol. I of A History of American Life, ed. by Arthur M. Schlesinger and Dixon R. Fox. New York: Macmillan, 1929. A history of European contacts with the New World that emphasizes social rather than military and political aspects.

The Spanish

BOLTON, HERBERT E. Coronado, Knight of Pueblos and Plains. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1949. An enjoyable biography of Coronado and an extensive survey of his exploration of the Southwest.

______. Rim of Christendom—A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, Pacific Coast Pioneer. New York: Macmillan, 1936. Not only the definitive biography of Padre Kino, the famous missionary, but also the best available account of early Spanish efforts in Arizona.

______. The Spanish Borderlands—A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest. Vol. XXIII of The Chronicles of America series, ed. by Allen Johnson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921. A compact and readable volume that is still popular with students and laymen alike.

BOURNE, EDWARD G. Spain in America, 1450-1580. Vol III of The American Nation series, ed. by Albert B. Hart. New York: Harper, 1940; reprinted in paperback 1962. Probably the most widely read scholarly work on the foundations of the Spanish Empire in North America.

CARTER, HODDING and BETTY W. Doomed Road of Empire—The Spanish Trail of Conquest. American Trails series. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. An interesting and scholarly work on the Spanish borderlands by a Pulitzer prizewinner and his wife. Tells the stories of the Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans who traveled the Camino Real (Royal Highway) from Saltillo to Natchitoches and its parallel trails in Texas between 1568 and the Battle of Buena Vista, in 1847.

CAUGHEY, JOHN W. History of the Pacific Coast of North America. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1938. An excellent one-volume history of the Pacific coast—from Mexico to Alaska—that emphasizes the period before 1850.

HARING, CLARENCE H. The Spanish Empire in America. New York: Oxford, 1947. An authoritative summary, stressing institutional development, that is equally valuable to the specialist and nonspecialist.

HORGAN, PAUL. Great River—The Rio Grande in North American History. 2 vols. New York: Rinehart, 1954. Vol. I, Indians and Spain. A Pulitzer-prize-winning history that is particularly readable. Devoted as much to life along the Rio Grande as to the river itself. Discusses various phases of Indian and Spanish life and their interrelationships.

MADARIAGA, SALVADOR DE. The Rise of the Spanish American Empire. New York: Macmillan, 1947. This and the following volume provide an excellent synthesis of the history of the Spanish Empire in America.

______. The Fall of the Spanish American Empire. New York: Macmillan, 1948.

MORISON, SAMUEL E. Admiral of the Ocean Sea—A Life of Christopher Columbus. Boston: Little, Brown, 1942. A condensation of a two-volume work, published the same year, that was awarded a Pulitzer prize for biography.

SPICER, EDWARD H. Cycles of Conquest—The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1962. A comprehensive, specialized work that should nevertheless be of interest to the layman who is interested in delving beyond the surface of history. Includes the findings of recent scholarship on Indian-Spanish relationships.

The French

BISHOP, MORRIS. Champlain—The Life of Fortitude. New York: Knopf, 1948. A scholarly and probably the most readable biography of the famed French explorer. The author's admiration of Champlain enhances rather than detracts from the presentation.

MUNRO, WILLIAM B. and GEORGE M. WRONG. Adventures of New France. Vol. III of The Chronicles of America series, ed. by Allen Johnson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1918. One of the better volumes of this series. Divided into two parts: "Crusaders of New France," by Munro, and "The Conquest of New France," by Wrong.

NUTE, GRACE L. The Voyageur. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Association, 1931, reprint 1955. Although most of this work concentrates on the period after 1763, when the French had been driven off the continent, it is valuable for its portrayal of the French voyageur.

PARKMAN, FRANCIS. La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West. Vol. III of his collected Works. Boston: Little, Brown, 1902; available in paperback. First issued in 1869, this volume is a monument to La Salle's achievements in the Mississippi Valley. The style is some what more labored than usual for Parkman.

______. Pioneers of France in the New World. Vol. I of his collected Works. Boston: Little, Brown, 1902. Originally published in 1865, this classic provides a fascinating account of the activities of the early French pioneers—from Fort Caroline, in Florida, to Quebec, in Canada. It has never been surpassed as an account of the Huguenot ventures in North America, although its principal purpose is to describe the foundations of New France.

______. The Battle for North America. Ed. by John Tebbel. Garden City: Doubleday, 1948. A rather extensive (746 pages) condensation of Parkman's massive study of the French in North America and their struggle to hold the continent's heartland.

______. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. Vol. II of his collected Works. Boston: Little, Brown, 1902. This classic narrative of missionary tenacity was first published in 1867. Relates the martyrdom and zeal of the Jesuit fathers in spreading European culture and influence among the Indians and settlers in New France.

THWAITES, REUBEN G. France in America, 1497-1763. Vol. VII of The American Nation series, ed. by Albert B. Hart. New York: Harper, 1905. This book remains an outstanding summary of the French period. Like several other volumes in the series, it surpasses in literary merit and historical skill more recent works in the field.

WRONG, GEORGE M. The Rise and Fall of New France. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1928. The story of France in America told by a Canadian historian. Neither as readable nor as perceptive as Parkman's works, but it is based on more recent scholarship and presents a different viewpoint and organization.

The Dutch and Swedes

BENSON, ADOLPH B. and NABOTH HEDIN. Americans from Sweden. The People of America series. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1950. Discusses all phases of Swedish colonial history and the role of the Swedes in America, including religion and education.

NISSENSON, SAMUEL G. The Patroon's Domain. New York: Columbia University Press, 1937. Although this work is designed to trace the history of Rensselaerswyck and the vicinity of Albany, it is the best analysis of the patroon system available. Places colonization of New Netherland in the context of the commercial growth of the Dutch Republic.

RAESLY, ELLIS L. Portrait of New Netherland. New York: Columbia University Press, 1945. Originally a doctoral dissertation, this socially oriented history competently treats government, religion, culture, political ideas, literature, and other aspects of New Netherland.

The English

ANDREWS, CHARLES M. Colonial Folkways—A Chronicle of American Life in the Reign of the Georges. Vol. IX of The Chronicles of America series, ed. by Allen Johnson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921. Emphasizing social aspects of colonial history, this widely read book has contributed much to general understanding of the American heritage.

______. Colonial Self-Government, 1652-1689. Vol. V of The American Nation series, ed. by Albert B. Hart. New York: Harper, 1904. In the field of Andrews' specialty, this volume is still the best single one on the subject.

CHITWOOD, OLIVER P. A History of Colonial America. New York: Harper, 1931. One of the best works of its kind available. Presents a thorough and factual resume of European colonization of North America, but emphasizes the area of the present United States and the activities of the English.

CRAVEN, WESLEY F. The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, 1607-1689. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1949. Vol. I of A History of the South series, ed. by Wendell H. Stephenson and Ellis M. Coulter. Carefully examines the cultural development of colonial Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas.

ELLIS, GEORGE E. The Puritan Age and Rule in the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, 1629-1685. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1888. This study, one of the first of its kind, is still probably the most inclusive and is basically sound. Recent advances in social and intellectual history, however, have resulted in modifications of Ellis' ideas.

GREENE, EVARTS B. The Foundation of American Nationality. New York: American Book Co., rev. ed. 1935. A review of American colonial history as a part of that of the British Empire, from the foundations of the colonies to the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Written for laymen and students, it synthesizes modern scholarship relating to the period.

______. Provincial America. Vol. VI of The American Nation series, ed. by Albert B. Hart. New York: Harper, 1905. Focusing on the British settlements that became part of the United States, this volume tells the story of their expansion, government, religion, culture, and commerce.

MILLER, PERRY. The New England Mind—The Seventeenth Century. New York: Macmillan, 1939. An intellectual history of Puritanism in New England. The theological doctrines and philosophical roots of the colonial leaders are cogently synthesized and thoroughly analyzed.

______. Roger Williams—His Contributions to the American Tradition. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953. Of a number of biographies of Roger Williams, this one seems to present the best-rounded portrait.

MORISON, SAMUEL E. Builders of the Bay Colony. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930. Illuminates with literary skill the lives of a number of individuals who contributed to the early development of Massachusetts—from Richard Hakluyt to Anne Bradstreet. Provides a sympathetic account of New England Puritanism.

______. The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England. New York: New York University Press, 2d ed. 1956. Not so much a history of ideas as a history of intellectual endeavor. It surveys such subjects as education, bookselling, libraries, sermons, political tracts, poetry, and science.

NETTELS, CURTIS P. The Roots of American Civilization. New York: Crofts, 1946. Crofts' American History series, ed. by Dixon R. Fox. Treats theoretical and practical aspects of British colonial policy from the standpoint of the British Government and the colonists. Illuminates economic, political, and social facets of the American heritage.

PEARE, CATHERINE O. William Penn—A Biography. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957. Probably the most perceptive of all the biographies of this prominent Anglo-American.

STARKEY, MARION L. The Devil in Massachusetts—A Modern Inquiry into the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Knopf, 1949. A modern psychological study of the witch trials. Their history is clearly told, and it is related to the social and religious background in Massachusetts. Of the numerous studies on the subject, this is probably the most interesting to the average reader.

SWEET, WILLIAM W. Religion in Colonial America. New York: Scribner's, 1942. The definitive general work on the subject. Examines religious motivation for colonization, the effect of the colonial experience on Old World religious thought, and the great variety and diversity of religious opinions in the colonies.

WERTENBAKER, THOMAS J. The First Americans, 1607-1690. Vol. II of A History of American Life, ed. by Arthur M. Schlesinger and Dixon R. Fox. New York: Macmillan, 1927. Like other volumes in the series, this one emphasizes social aspects, Wertenbaker's field of specialty.

______. The Founding of American Civilization—The Middle Colonies. New York: Scribner's, 1938. This volume and the two listed immediately below comprise one of the finest overall studies available on our colonial heritage. Like the others, it is written from the colonial rather than the British viewpoint. Surveys the founding of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

______. The Founding of American Civilization—The Old South. New York: Scribner's, 1942. Treats the establishment of Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas with well-rounded historical scrutiny.

______. The Founding of American Civilization—The Puritan Oligarchy. New York: Scribner's, 1947. Primarily a study of Massachusetts, but discusses the other Puritan colonies in New England. Provides an excellent analysis of the development of the Bay Colony.

WILLIAMSON, JAMES A. The Age of Drake. London: Black, 3d ed. 1952. Tells the tale of Drake and the "sea dogs" with vigor, taste, and authenticity. Contributes much to an understanding of the background of U.S. colonial history.

______. A Short History of British Expansion. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 2d ed. 1931. Possibly no other single work so effectively places the development of the British seaboard colonies in the perspective of empire.

WILLISON, GEORGE F. Saints and Strangers. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945. A lively story of the Pilgrims and the founding of Plymouth colony. Drawn largely from original material—Bradford's journal, letters, and other manuscripts of the colonists—it is written with sympathetic understanding.

WRIGHT, LOUIS B. The Cultural Life of the American Colonies, 1607-1763. New York: Harper, 1957. A short but outstanding survey of our colonial cultural heritage.

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Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005