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West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  282 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
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 u ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 16th 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Louise
Nov 16, 2014 Louise rated it liked it
I liked the idea of this book. It promised to tell what was happening in the other regions of North America while the 13 colonies declared and fought for their independence from Great Britain.

There stories represent all the wide geographical areas of the continent and in each there is a note of what went on in the colonies at the parallel date. For instance, the expedition to seek a route linking Spain's Santa Fe settlement with the one in Monterey, although it started several weeks later, was s
...more
Martin
May 17, 2014 Martin rated it really liked it
In 1776, you might remember, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the British colonies on the eastern seaboard. That was by no means the only important event to happen in North America that year, as West of the Revolution reminds us. Ranging from Alaska, to the SF Bay area...from the Black Hills to Hudson Bay, the revolt against England was not the only thing of importance happening that year. If you are a fan of American history, this really should be on your shelf, next to McCullough and other 18 ...more
Caren
Feb 15, 2015 Caren rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Years ago, when my daughters were still young, we had a Rand McNally Histomap of World History, which isn't a map but a sort of chart showing the rise and fall of civilizations. This book reminded me of the Histomap: it tells what was going on in other parts of North America, and indeed how that was influenced by countries on other continents, in that eventful year, 1776. In the USA, history books for children have a laser focus on those thirteen British colonies on the east coast, but during th ...more
Andrea
Jan 21, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
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 in ...more
Pat
Oct 30, 2014 Pat rated it really liked it
I had no expectations starting this book, the premise intrigued me. Each chapter picks a point on the North America map and tells you what was going on there before, at and soon after 1776 events on the eastern seaboard. I enjoyed it very much as I learned a lot of detail and general context about certain areas that I did not know before.

The author tied in the Russian incursion across the Aleutians soutward and the Spanish colonization northward across California and Alaska, and near the very en
...more
Mike
Sep 03, 2014 Mike rated it it was ok
There is a lot of interesting information in "West of the Revolution." I just couldn't stand the way the book was organized.

As I understood it, the point of the book was to look at 1776 in other parts of North America outside the Thirteen Colonies. The author picked 9 locations to examine.

So far so good. But in his discussion of the locations, he leaped back and forth in time, to the 1760s, to 1804, etc., so much that 1776 got lost (at least for me) in the telling.

It almost seemed to me that the
...more
Aloysius
Jul 10, 2014 Aloysius rated it really liked it
We all know the story of the American Revolution which took place on the 13 Original Colonies. But what was happening at the same time in other areas of the continent, beyond English dominion? This book gives the answer. From the rebellion in southern Spanish California to the relentless expansion of Russian power over present-day Alaska, the story of these events are laid out in this book. A short but sweet read!
Alanna Spinrad
Feb 23, 2017 Alanna Spinrad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This books goes into all the other changes that were happening everywhere on the American continent at the same time we were battling for our independence from England. There were vast changes going on everywhere.

It struck me that the indigenous population in the San Francisco area was already beginning to shrink before the Spanish even arrived. There were too many vying for too few resources. It didn't dawn on me that the indigenous tribes could suffer from over population. It also surprised m
...more
Sydney
Mar 21, 2017 Sydney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at North America in the 1770s
James (JD) Dittes
"Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation...."

That's the line every American schoolchild memorizes at some point along the way. It's a line that Claudio Saunt translates in a fascinating new way in his book, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776.

For while the nation established in 1776 was indeed "new," the continent upon which it was founded was hardly new. It was crowded with native peoples and divided among claims from three o
...more
Minosh
Jul 29, 2015 Minosh rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This book was not bad. The problem was, it could have been a lot better.

The idea of the book is a good one and one that needs to be taken up by more authors. This is basically just a brief introduction to a few of the things going on across the continent in the late 1700s, and as a result the chapters can feel both like you're being thrown into an ocean of unfamiliar details and also too short and uncomprehensive at the same time.

The biggest strength of the book is in the moments when it ties
...more
Joeydag
Dec 18, 2014 Joeydag rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-the-house
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 northe ...more
Peter Geyer
This book is one of a growing number of texts that focus on a particular year and a particular locality, a strategy that has much appeal. The focus here is on what was happening in North America at the same time as the time around the revolution that ultimately created the USA.

Several areas are selected: the west coast, involving Russian exploration and the response of Spanish settlement in and around San Francisco, including how to actually get there from elsewhere; the fur trade in what is no
...more
Sara
Dec 28, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
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 ...more
Liz
Nov 30, 2014 Liz rated it liked it
Shelves: history, for-work
Claudio Saunt undertook a large project: West of the Revolution explores the events and human interactions that occurred in nearly every corner of the North American continent outside of the 13 British colonies involved in the American Revolution.

The general theme of the story is interconnectedness. The Spanish colonized California because the Russians expanded their fur trade to include Alaska and parts of the Pacific Coast. Sioux peoples migrated west and brought warfare to the Great Plains be
...more
Linda
Sep 08, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it
I've studied a lot of American history - we had to do Indiana history as I was growing up and of course, everyone (at least in the US!) has to do the American thing. However, much is left out - some by necessity or the course would last 2 years (which, actually, isn't a bad idea...). Also missing is an explanation of what is going on elsewhere in the world/country. As I get older (and older and older), I'm filling in some of those gaps, but it isn't always easy.

This is a great book for showing w
...more
Bob
Jul 10, 2014 Bob rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-history
I found this book very enjoyable. It describes what was going on in North America OUTSIDE of the 13 colonies during the period 1756-1776. The structure is to examine region by region so you end up with stories that are only loosely or not at all connected. Some were familiar to me (the Russians in Alaska for example) and others were new. Yet as they accumulate in the brain, you get a picture of a continent in a ferment of activity and change. The Russians are slaughtering both native peoples and ...more
Jo Stafford
Sep 05, 2015 Jo Stafford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an absorbing and accessible introduction to events in other parts of North America while the 13 eastern British colonies were throwing off the shackles of imperial domination. While some of the book covered material I was already familiar with - I've read a lot of Lakota history, for instance - I learnt much I didn't know. I was unaware that the Spanish establishment of missions along the Californian coast (with catastrophic consequences for Native American people) was motivated by a fea ...more
J.M. Hushour
Sep 15, 2015 J.M. Hushour rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Being out of academia means one can justify reading "popular" works of history. This matters because, let's be frank, most academic works of history are unceasingly boring, unimaginative and of an intellectual worth whose adherents can be counted on the digits of a diphallic terata victim: 22.
There's something to be said for works of history like this one which are just darn fun to read because they give us new perspectives on big, grand things like "what the fuck was up with the rest of North A
...more
Charles Neff
Apr 05, 2016 Charles Neff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some reviewers have found West of the Revolution too superficial. That may be the case for a few specialists. For me it was a valuable corrective, providing slant on American history that was genuinely new. I grew up in Mexico and California, majored in history, and subsequently lived in Washington State, Vancouver BC and Alaska. Yet I could have told you little about what was happening in those areas during the American revolution. But here it is (plus chapters that focus on Colorado, the Dakot ...more
Heather
Oct 21, 2014 Heather rated it liked it
It's interesting to learn the history of other areas in North America during the American Revolution, since it's not often discussed in grade school classes. I took a class in grad school that focused specifically on the Caribbean Islands and how they influenced the AR. This is the first book that I've read that dealt with the history of the lands West of the 13 colonies. I understand that this is a historiography that focuses specifically on "West of the Revolution", however I was hoping for mo ...more
Becky
Feb 25, 2015 Becky rated it really liked it
By chance, I read this book right after reading Norman Davies' Vanishing Empires, which is about how various states and nations in Europe (for the most part) were overtaken or lost regardless of their one-time power. Claudio Saunt's book about North America convinced me that at least some of the Indian tribes he covers also qualified as nations and states that fell victim to the machinations of imperialists like Britain, France, and Spain. One of the most convincing stories concerned the Creek, ...more
Dave Schoettinger
When Americans hear the number 1776 (unless it is their street address or part of their phone number), they think of events in Philadelphia or Boston or somewhere else on the east coast of North America. This book is professor Saunt's attempt to broaden our horizons with regard to the events of 1776. Much of book relates the dealings between Europeans who claimed various parts of the North American continent as their own and the Native Americans who were the effective sovereigns of 90% of the co ...more
John Gurney
Jul 05, 2014 John Gurney rated it really liked it
This history's fluid prose relates unusual and largely unknown information about North America west of the American Revolution in 1776. Author Claudio Saunt weaves the story together, whereas so many histories take you from disparate place to seemingly unrelated place. He describes native American tribes, like the Sioux, who discovered the Black Hills cerca 1776, brutal Russian forays into Alaska and the Aleuts, and the Spanish in California and terra incognito of the southwest. Uniquely, Saunt ...more
Emily
Jul 30, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
An excellent look at what was happening in the rest of America while the Revolution was being fought. Saunt examines what was going on elsewhere and covers most of the rest of modern day America and how these happenings were related to one another and events in Europe. The description of the book makes this seem as though it is going to focus on Spain and Russia, and while it does look at those two countries, this is really a book about Native Anericans and the impact of colonization on them. Th ...more
Addison Public Library
So you think you know what happened in 1776? The American Revolution, right? Well, yes, but there was an entire continent that went on with its life without being directly affected by the events on the East Coast. This book explores eight different regions, the people, and the events that would have a profound effect upon the interior of the country. From the Aleutian Islands, and what would one day be Alaska, to the Spanish colony of San Francisco and onward to the Florida/Keys coast and the Ha ...more
Beth Roberts
Mar 09, 2016 Beth Roberts rated it really liked it
Very interesting. He limits his story to 1776, because that is a date Americans know well -- but he deals with events elsewhere in what would become the United States in that year. He focuses on San Diego, San Francisco, the Colorado plateau, the Aleutians, the Black Hills, Arkansas, Georgia, and, to point to the future, Hawaii. These are, in every case, stories of the clash of Europeans with native inhabitants. We all know the Europeans rode roughshod over the natives, but focusing on particula ...more
Darren
Jan 06, 2015 Darren rated it really liked it
A very interesting account of what was happening in other parts of North America around the time of the Revolutionary war. Before reading this book, I don't think I ever thought about how things looked from the west during this period. I just kind of imagined tribes of Indians running around killing buffaloes.

This book has definitely changed that perspective. There were complex societies across the continent, engaging in international trade that had far reaching effects around the globe. It's a
...more
Mark Luongo
Feb 16, 2015 Mark Luongo rated it liked it
Recommended to Mark by: NYPL
I've said it in class on numerous occasions, "History occurs simultaneously," This books tries to show the extent to which events were taking place throughout North America while the focus has always been on the American Revolution. I think the author has done so but he leaves the reader with more questions than answers and looking for more detail. He also commits the horrific bugaboo, in my opinion, of not having enough maps. They are essential to a work of this type. Overall it is an interesti ...more
Bruce
Jun 09, 2014 Bruce rated it really liked it
This books covers more than the year 1776. The author describes what was going on in the interior of North America and on the Pacific Coast. It is a story of foreign powers building their empires and reacting to each others imperial encroachments. The indigenous populations had a history of their own that was happening at the same time. In the chapter discussing the Sioux the author mentions an American reporting to his superiors on the east coast, without a sense of irony, that though the Sioux ...more
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“In late June 1776, a week before Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, José Joaquín Moraga built a small shelter of branches on the banks of a lagoon that the Spanish called Arroyo de los Dolores. The site became Mission Dolores, the first colonial settlement in San Francisco. While the young republic took shape on the opposite side of the continent, San Francisco moved in its own direction. In 1808, shortly before James Madison became the fourth president of the United States, Ivan Kuskov, an employee of the Russian-American Company, secretly buried a copper plate in San Francisco that read, “Land belonging to Russia.” Four years later, he would found the Russian outpost of Fort Ross less than one hundred miles to the north.” 0 likes
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