Suggestions for a Compelling Nonfiction Book on an Aspect of American History (1492-1816)?
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For a college history course that I'm taking (History of the U.S. to 1816), one of our assignments of the quarter is to choose a nonfiction book about an aspect of American history that took place before 1816. To be honest with you, this is not my forte so I don't even know where to begin my search for a book that won't put me to sleep.
I'm interested in women's history, specifically the Salem witch trials. I've also considered reading Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War by Nathanial Phillbrick though. I'm really looking for anything that gives a very human account of an experience, historical event, or time period, rather than a very dry factual account.
I'm open to any suggestions that you have! Thank you.
Not in any way expert on American history. But if you want fair info about the Salem witch scare: A delusion of Satan
Carol Karlsen's The Devil in the Shape of a Woman is another good one on the Salem witch trials . . . and unlikely to put you to sleep. :-)
If you're interested in women's history generally, you might like A Midwife's Tale or Good Wives, both by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. The first is a reconstruction of the life of one colonial-era (1785-1812) woman, Martha Ballard; the second is a collective biography of women in northern New England between 1650 and 1750. Ulrich is an immensely gifted social historian . . . and, as a bonus, writes beautifully.
Philbrick's Mayflower is well worth the read . . . as are two other books that intersect it at the chronological edges: A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz (about early voyages to the New World) and The Name of War by Jill Lepore (about King Philip's War, the most brutal of the European-Native conflicts in Colonial America).
If you're interested, even a little, in biology, ecology, or the environment, The Columbian Exchange: The Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 by Alfred W. Crosby will likely fascinate you . . . it's 40 years old this year, and still the definitive introduction to what happened when the New World got pigs and horses and the Old World got potatoes and maize.
And then there's . . .
David McCullough, 1776
Patrick M. Malone, The Skulking Way of War
William Cronon, Changes in the Land
David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing or Paul Revere's Ride
Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers
Edward J. Larson, Magnificent Catastrophe
. . . all of which, IMHO, are fascinating treatments of interesting subjects by top-shelf writers (people whose books I'd read for fun).
Thank you BarkingMatt! A Delusion of Satan was actually number one on my "prospective books" list. Have you read it?
I'm also looking at Damned Women, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, Devil in The Shape of a Woman and In The Devil's Snare. Anyone read any of those?
@ABVR you posted while I was typing my post, and you ended up mentioning a lot of the books I'm thinking of reading! Thank you, so very much. I'm highly considering Devil in The Shape of a Woman now. A Midwife's Tale is also a fantastic suggestion that I plan to check out. You've been a wealth of knowledge, thank you!
> 4: Yes, I've read it. It tries to be an even minded report of what actually happened there. In my mind it succeeds. It almost gives day to day reports, no lumping of either victims or persecutors into large groups. It's a good attempt at trying to reconstruct the dynamics of 1692.
Sorry, no, I haven't read the others you mention.
@lahochstetler, thank you for your input. I was worried about that- I thought that Damned Women sounded a bit bland. We're actually allowed to read a "popular history", it doesn't have to be academic, so if you have any suggestions in that realm that would be great.
I second Mccullough. I mean, what's better than a bunch of grubby lice-infected, brawling, opportunistically drunken, Patriots.
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