By examining the lives of the colonists through their own words--in diaries, letters, sermons, newspaper columns, and poems--Colonial America: A History in Documents, Second Edition reveals how immigrants, despite their vast differences, laid the foundations for a new nation: the United States.
One of the earliest documents is Sir Walter Ralegh's account of the failed colony at Roanoke, the first British settlement. The harrowing experiences of the first colonists are recorded in Captain John Smith's tale of Indian attack and starvation at Jamestown and in a young Massachusetts colonist's letter to his English parents pleading for supplies. A Catawba Indian's letter to the governor of South Carolina describing a devastating smallpox epidemic is evidence of the even greater toll that war and illness had on the Native Americans. From these difficult beginnings, the colonies developed into vibrant communities. A poem by a young Englishman sentenced to be deported is the story of one laborer who helped build the colonies. An exchange of letters between friends about choosing a husband provides insight into colonial family life. The title page of a book about evil spirits and a Mohawk Indian's telling of the creation myth demonstrate the diversity of colonial religious beliefs.
American colonists were also guided by secular codes of behavior. Young George Washington's exercise book filled with rigid rules of conduct exemplifies the manners and mores of the colonies' future leaders. A picture essay about the material world gathers objects ranging from military artifacts to fine furnishings to reveal how the colonies evolved from rough outposts to near-independent states. Using such historical evidence, Colonial America provides a captivating look at the textured lives of the people who founded the United States.
The second edition includes a new chapter, "The Tumult of Empire," on the imperial tensions that erupted during this period and the internal strife within the colonies, as demonstrated in the violence of Bacon's Rebellion, Governor Andros's harsh ruling over the Dominion of New England, the overturning of provincial regimes in response to William and Mary's Glorious Revolution, and the golden age of piracy. Twenty-eight new visual documents enrich this edition, including a map of Native American villages, a proclamation on the destruction of forests, and Hippopotamus hide whips used on slaves. Ten new sidebars provide shorter documents, such as John Winthrop's journal entry on the effects of the English Civil War in Massachusetts, a 1730 poem about growing Philadelphia, and a 1743 newspaper advertisement aimed at German-speaking colonists. There is a new note on sources and interpretation and there are updates to the further reading and websites recommendations.
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Professor of History, Florida State University
Reviewed with John J. Patrick's The Bill of Rights.
Gr. 9-12. The latest volumes in the Pages from History series spotlight topics from American history, featuring excerpts from source documents, which are introduced, occasionally explained, and put into context by Gray and Patrick's discussions. The large pages are divided into wide inner columns, which carry the main text, and narrow outer columns, in which short quotations, brief commentaries, and definitions sometimes appear. Reproductions of period documents, maps, art, and artifacts illustrate the texts. Colonial America presents a wide variety of documents thematically arranged in chapters discussing topics such as colonial confrontations with Native Americans and slavery. One chapter uses photos and texts to spotlight colonial American homes and artifacts. Beginning with English common law, The Bill of Rights covers not only the British and colonial background but also issues, actions, and court cases challenging and clarifying the rights, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to a 2000 Supreme Court decision involving prayer before a public school football game. One unusual chapter commenting on both the right to bear arms and the right to free expression looks at gun control through the medium of political cartoons. Both books offer broad, varied representations of their topics through well-chosen selections of original documents supported by solid background information. Each volume concludes with a time line and a bibliography. Carolyn Phelan
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