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American Colonies: The Settling of North America (The Penguin History of the United States #1)

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,371 ratings  ·  76 reviews
With this volume, Alan Taylor challenges the traditional story of colonial history by examining the many cultures that helped make America. Transcending the usual Anglocentric version of our colonial past, he recovers the importance of Native American tribes, African slaves, and the rival empires of France, Spain, the Netherlands, and even Russia in the colonization of Nor...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published July 30th 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,876)
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Eric
Some reviews on this site mention Taylor’s “leftist bias,” allege a soft-pedaling of Native American violence and environmental impact. I don’t really see it. Sure, Taylor has his moments of passionate phrasing, but a work of this scope and synthesis (all colonial experiments in North America, and most in the Caribbean, from Columbus to the California missions) is a poor vehicle for agitation; the reading, and perhaps the writing, of any lofty historical survey insinuates an abstraction, a detac...more
Peter
Alan Taylor's "American Colonies" seems like a benign title in what is (or was supposed to be) Penguin Books first volume of the publisher's History of the United States of America, given the content of this well researched, well documented and well referenced book.
The theme of "American Colonies" is enslavement, expansion, exploitation and extermination.
Taylor ends this volume in 1820, but in the preceding decades imperial rivalries between the British, the French, the Spanish and for a brief p...more
Becky
I picked this book up off the discount shelf at a bookstore many years ago when I was going through my compulsive accumulation of books. I chose it not knowing anything about it other than it was a history book and that it served my purpose of getting to know history better one day. The title seemed a little boring, the subject a little bland, but oh how looks and initial impressions can be deceiving. Much to my surprise, this is a wonderful and bountiful history book. It abounds in scope, reada...more
Rebecca Radnor
Taylor does a wonderful job of covering the breath and depth of the development of the colonial period in North America (British, French, Spanish and even Russian), with a strong emphasis on economic drivers that impacted cultural differences in each colony. (Warning, I'm an anthropologist & historian who also studies international business, so seeing this stuff makes me happy.) He offers a great deal of data regarding push/pull economics and demographics between the mother country and the c...more
Kay
This book takes an expansive look at re-examining early colonialism in the Americas, and I picked it up in part because some friends of mine all agreed to take on the Oxford History of the United States. Alan Taylor's work, which was edited by author of the much-hailed Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877, Eric Foner, to divide the colonial period up not by decade, but by colonizing forces. He roughly divides the era into the French, the British, and the Spanish. Because of...more
John
I had to read this for my comps list, and it confirmed my earlier opinion (based on skimming). This would work really well as a basic text for the sort of early American history class that I would like to teach. Taylor adopts an Atlantic World/North American approach, so he provides the history of New Spain and New France, as well as the English colonies, and he doesn't limit himself to only the English colonies that became the first thirteen states. The Caribbean colonies play an important role...more
Fred R
This would be excellent history except that the narrative is continually interrupted by politically correct qualifications and adjustments. This habit is extremely annoying, particularly when one is reading for edification, not moral ammunition.

Steve Sailer once said: "Besides being useful (in all sorts of hard to predict ways), the truth is really, really interesting, while political correctness is skull-crushingly boring. That's because every truth in the universe is connected somehow to ever...more
Mark
This book is not just about the original 13 colonies. It lays a groundwork of events and and motivations in Europe, Asia, and Africa that spawned exploration and discovery, and the need and/or desire to establish colonies in the new-found lands. It explores the native cultures encountered by the Europeans, and how each culture affected the other.

And then, it just keeps building on that through time and space. As noted in the title, this book is about American Colonies, and should not be confused...more
KJ
A tour de force by Alan Taylor! The heavy tome might seem daunting at first, but Taylor puts us on a boat to the new world and successfully navigates us not only to Puritan New England, but Spanish South America, the Virginia Company, the middle Colonies, the West Indies, and the Pacific. In many ways, Taylor does not limit our scope. His work simultaneously reveals the colonization of the Americas, one of the first, if not the only work, I have come across to keep things in perspective. Taylor...more
Jordan
Insightful would be the best term I could use for this title. One of the biggest insights for me was how the Caribbean came to be the precursor to the Carolinas. The author does have a tendency to repeat points in a general sense toward religious and human nature issues notwithstanding the chapter i.e. the colonial power be they Spanish, British, French, Russian, etc. That said, the points seem valid. I would definitely suggest this book to anybody wanting to learn about colonial North American...more
Pete daPixie
Oh man! What a wonderful book. 13,000 B.C. to 1780 A.D. Part of the story of the settling of N. America involves the histories of Spain, England, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Russia, Africa and S. America.
I just didn't want this story to end. Alan Taylor (2001) has produced a monumental piece of work here. The importance of N. America's native tribes goes hand in hand with the colonial struggles of the rival European empires.
"I think I'll call...more
Ross
how to justify giving a survey five stars? even though the writing is never especially beautiful, it's never clumsy and it's not too repetitive. to me, that's a pretty big achievement. and the breadth and depth of the book is incredibly satisfying. taylor gives a nice contextual background to europe and north american before 1492, and then manages to cover the english, french, spanish, dutch, and even russian empires as well as dozens of native cultures. he shifts really easily between political...more
Luis
A close look at American history before the United States. Most people are familiar with British, American, and even Spanish colonization. But we don't often get much information about the various Native American tribes and how they interacted with each other and with the colonizers. We also get a glimpse of others like the Dutch, Swedes, and Russians, as well as becoming more familiar with the colonization of Hawaii, Alaska, and Canada. This book is chock-full of detailed information. It's not...more
James
What it says on the cover. Which ends up being an odd read (in a good way) -- this covers every colonial venture in North America, including the ones we tend to forget (Russia!), but excludes anything after a colony has turned into a nation. So you get the Eastern Seaboard up to 1776, but another half century for the west coast .. and you get the conquest of the Aztecs, but nothing on the Incas. Helpful to me to put various things I'd read in isolation in a shared context. The overarching metahi...more
Jonathan
A very fine introduction to colonial North America. While the author's relentless PC is occasionally annoying - yes we understand that women couldn't vote and that there were slaves after the eighth or tenth time - his thorough and wide-ranging approach to how the various colonies were founded and developed gives the reader a complete picture, combining politics, economics, social conditions and how the colonies interacted with the Indians, the mother countries and each other. The book is very w...more
Oliver Bateman
An excellent single volume history. Why assign a textbook for your US to 1865 class when you've got a wonderfully written teaching tool like this one? Taylor occasionally lapses into value judgments--the Spanish failed because of this, the English succeeded because of this, etc.--but for the most part keeps his narrative clear of teleological explanations and makes good use of much recent scholarship.
Christopher
I am very happy to have read this book. I have trouble 'rating it' since I've only read two history books ever - one for AP US history, and now this one. So I'll just review it.

I came to it with a very specific purpose - to find ideas for my fantasy series aspirations. Some parts were absolutely great for that; specifically the talk at the very beginning about the Pleistocene era and other areas which spoke about the structure of American Indians. Pre-industrial innovations are always fascinatin...more
Kathryn Walters
I loved reading this for my Colonial North America class! It's incredibly readable, for a history book :) I liked how it paid significant attention to the role of Native Americans in the foundation of our country. I learned so much from this class, and this book bears some of the responsibility!
Estelle Champlain
Taylor gives a general overview of Early Colonial America. This books is good for someone who wants to understand the basics but is not too interested in details. There are no footnotes, however the bibliography is extensive.
Kent
A fantastic overview of colonial American history covering everything from the first peoples to all the European nations that had an impact in the land that would become the United States.
Dee
I'm reading this for my class. I'm hoping for some interesting anecdotes to sprinkle into my lectures on North American colonization. So far, it's pretty dry.
Molly Brodak
Very nicely done. I found the chapters a bit too brief, though. But as an overview of 200 years of overlooked American history, excellent.
Susan
A favorite reference for early american history, covers events and themes often missed in other histories of the period.
Joseph Stieb
I never thought I could really get into colonial history until I read this book. It's incredibly detailed, engrossing, and basically fair in its perspective. Taylor is a classic myth-buster historian, but he doesn't ridicule the myth-makers or believers. Rather, he busts myths on both the European and native sides of history. Taylor gives you a fascinating overview of the scope of different kinds of colonies, from Caribbean slave colonies to Virginia's cash crop economy to the vibrant freedom of...more
Marie
Best book for comps and for teaching.
Miriam Borenstein
In American Colonies: The Settling of North America, Alan Taylor examines the settling of North America by European invaders. Breaking with the traditional narrative of successful British colonization, Taylor tells an inclusive story of European conquest including English, French, Russian, Dutch, and Spanish attempts to colonize the New World. A complex story of discoveries and interactions, American Colonies gives the history of native peoples and invaders an Atlantic perspective—forming a wel...more
Hongxi Mao
The history of America might seem to be very short comparing to other countries, but its history is very unique. This book talks about when the colonizer first got onto the Americas and started to settle here. There are many difficulties that they face, they have to start their own country and set their own rules. There are thirteen states when they first settled here, and each of the states have some different views and ideas of how to many this new country work and how to put this new country...more
Onefinemess
Yeah, that’s why it’s been so long since I wrote a book review – because history takes me forever to digest. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very interesting (hence the whole me reading it bit) – I just have to eat it in bite sized pieces. Usually, to the preclusion of any other reading, lest I totally get sidetracked.

As an illustration… this book was about 470 pages and it took me, I dunno, a couple weeks. Then, I started a 400ish page fiction book this morning and finished an hour or so ago. (Good)...more
Brent McCulley
From the daily life of the Puritans, to the religious zeal of the Natives, Taylor's "American Colonies" is a fantastic historical survey of Pre-Colonial America, offering amazing historical facts that are just too juicy sweet to pass by on.

For example, from the ecological imperialism of the European settlers, to the treatment of the infamous "Salem With Trials," Taylor always offers fresh new detail, fact, and conjecture for even the most dole topics of Colonial American history. From his treatm...more
Moose
Alan Taylor embarks on an ambitious project to cover the socio-cultural, environmental, and economic histories of all of the American colonies. DISCLAIMER: if you are looking strictly for an analysis of the thirteen British colonies which would eventually become the United States, you will find much more here than you probably want.

Taylor focuses his version of events on three lines of historical scholarship: "an Atlantic perspective, environmental history, and the ethno-history of colonial and...more
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Alan Shaw Taylor is a historian specializing in early American history. He is the author of a number of books about colonial America, the American Revolution, and the Early American Republic. He has won a Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize for his work.

Taylor graduated from Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, in 1977 and earned his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in 1986. Currently a professor...more
More about Alan Taylor...
The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution Liberty Men and Great Proprietors (Institute of Early American History & Culture (Paperback))

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