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West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History…

West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776

by Claudio Saunt

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This book briefly describes the encounters and interactions of Europeans and indigenous Americans from the Aleutian islands to the western Appalachians during the time of the American revolution. Since many Americans have a picture of the 1770s as a time when great and important things are happening along the East Coast of North America while the rest of the continent quietly waited for the British colonists to start marching west, this book is a good corrective. It's fairly brief, but a good introduction and reminder. I learned a lot esp. about the Russian and Spanish interactions with indigenous people along the West coast of North America. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
1776, it is a year known well in the Western World. The year when the American colonies declared their independence, so beginning a war with Britain that would have resounding consequences. Yet it was a war that happened exclusively along the Atlantic seaboard. Thousands of miles of land lay to west of these battles, land that was experiencing its own upheavals, but rarely is that story told. This book endeavors to do just that, spanning not only the North American continent but also unexpected locations such as Cuba, Russia, and Paris.

I must admit I picked up this book from the shelves on a whim, because I was intrigued Even as a history student we rarely touched on what was happening in North America outside of the British colonies, that is until the fledgling United States began their push into the interior of the continent on their way to Pacific. While I appreciated Saunt's effort, I really felt like he could have done more. The text was dry, often rambling at times as in the pages and pages of information on the magnificence and signifigance of the beaver population. Where he wasn't engaged in long tangents, the author skimmed quickly over the material. At only 210 pages of text, this book provides the barest of introductions to the several topics covered. Given the 50 pages of notes at the end of the book, it is clear that the author conducted extensive research, so it would have been nice to read a more expanded version of this book. As it is, he merely wet my interest in the topics he chose to present. To top it off he introduced yet another topic on the European discovery of the Hawaiinislands in the two page long epilogue. No where else in the book was Hawaii or Captain Cook mentioned, so I found this incredibly frustrating. Good thing he included all his notes so that I know where else to look for the rest of the history. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
A fascinating account of our history removed from the myopic prism of the Boston/Philadelphia corridor. It is short sighted to think that nothing was happening in this vast land while revolutionaries were battling the British in the north east. In fact entire communities were thriving in Alaska, California, Florida, Colorado etc. We just don't know about them because they don't have a "Daughters of the..." group to keep the memory alive. This is not to take away from the impact of the revolution on our lives; it in fact broadens our understanding of how this country developed everywhere which combined to enrich us. Claudio Saunt writes a compelling book about those areas and ideas and experiences that took place in 1776, hidden from our view. Subtitled "An uncommon history of 1776", it is indeed that. Well footnoted, it opens with Saul Steinberg's "View of the world from 9th Avenue" which really captures our eastern perspective and lets us know this is no ordinary history. Kudos for digging out and placing in one volume, in one moment in time, this vast history. ( )
  book58lover | Sep 13, 2015 |
A very unconventional history of 1776. Saunt steers clear of the events in Boston and Philadelphia, New York and Virginia (aside from offering up a few reference points) to focus on what was happening in other parts of North America during (and around) that year. From the Russians in Alaska to the Spanish in San Francisco and the interior southwest, the Sioux in the Black Hills, and the Osage along the Mississippi, Saunt fills in some gaps in the general understanding of what was happening on the continent.

Sometimes it feels like the background information and the tangential commentary take over the story, but even when that happens this is still a perfectly enjoyable book. Good counterpoint and contextual perspective on an important year in American history. ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 1, 2015 |
I've had to stop half way through at page 122 or so, but I will pick this up again. This is quite a bit of new material to me in the book. The awful story of the Russian encounters with the Aleuts in the fur trade as the Russians discover Alaska to exploit. The thin and difficult settling history of California until the Spanish learn the Russians may be a threat. The first mapping expedition from Santa Fe west by the Spanish. The global trade in otter fur in that the furs went either from northern Canada via London to Russia and across Siberia to Imperial China or from the Aleutian island through Siberia to the same obscure trading post on the border of Russia and China in Mongolia. Clearly written, too.

I've started reading it again and reread the chapter about the founding of San Francisco in 1776. It is so sad to read about the depopulation of the bay area by disease and cultural conflict - the missions were such work houses as well as centers of disease.

The second half of the book deals with the Sioux, the Osages, and the Creek as well as discusses the Hudson Bay Company. The Sioux are fighting to take repossession of the Black Hills which they have a claim to have moved there in 1775 - the Osages the only underground reservation (the mineral rights to the their reservation still have a legal existence although I have the impression the above ground reservation does not)! The main themes I got from the second chapter were the different responses to exposure to trade and the different impacts the treaty of 1763 had on these three tribes.

There is a short epilog about Captain Cook and his third voyage that started in 1776 which resulted in his discovery of Hawaii and the subsequent devastation that happened to the Hawaiians.

I found this general history fascinating. Entire subjects and perspectives of which I had previously been totally unaware such as the following. The Creeks had negotiated with the Spanish to start trade to Havana which in 1776 was a very large city and military center. The Creek wanted access to weapons to fight their own independence from the British. The author makes strong arguments about the diplomacy in Paris in 1763 being quite ignorant about what they set in motion in North America. The Osage killed many bison to boil down the fat to tallow which the Spanish would use in Havana to wax the slips to launch the men-of-war that they built there! Trading with the Native-Americans could be a dangerous and degrading thing to do. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393240207, Hardcover)

This panoramic account of 1776 chronicles the other revolutions unfolding that year across North America, far beyond the British colonies.

In 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, the Continental Congress declared independence, and Washington crossed the Delaware. We are familiar with these famous moments in American history, but we know little about the extraordinary events occurring that same year far beyond the British colonies. In this distinctive history, Claudio Saunt tells an intriguing, largely untold story of an immense and restless continent connected in surprising ways.

In that pivotal year, the Spanish established the first European colony in San Francisco and set off a cataclysm for the region’s native residents. The Russians pushed into Alaska in search of valuable sea otters, devastating local Aleut communities. And the British extended their fur trade from Hudson Bay deep into the continent, sparking an environmental revolution that transformed America’s boreal forests.

While imperial officials in distant Europe maneuvered to control lands they knew almost nothing about, America's indigenous peoples sought their own advantage. Creek Indians navigated the Caribbean to explore trade with Cuba. The Osages expanded their dominion west of the Mississippi River, overwhelming the small Spanish outposts in the area. And the Sioux advanced across the Dakotas. One traditional Sioux history states that they first seized the Black Hills, the territory they now consider their sacred homeland, in 1776. "Two nations were born that year," Saunt writes. The native one would win its final military victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn one hundred years later.

From the Aleutian Islands to the Gulf Coast and across the oceans to Europe’s imperial capitals, Saunt’s masterfully researched narrative reveals an interconnected web of history that spans not just the forgotten parts of North America but the entire globe.

Richly illustrated, with maps that reenvision a familiar landscape, West of the Revolution explores a turbulent continent in a year of many revolutions.

22 illlustrations, 15 maps

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:17 -0400)

Details the other revolutions during 1776, including the reaction of the native residents of San Francisco in the wake of the first European settlement there and the devastation of the Aleutian Islands by the Russians' hunt for sea otters.

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