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West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776
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West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  383 ratings  ·  92 reviews
In this unique history of 1776, Claudio Saunt looks beyond the familiar story of the thirteen colonies to explore the many other revolutions roiling the turbulent American continent. In that fateful year, the Spanish landed in San Francisco, the Russians pushed into Alaska to hunt valuable sea otters, and the Sioux discovered the Black Hills. Hailed by critics for challeng ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 6th 2015 by W. W. Norton Company (first published June 16th 2014)
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  383 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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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
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

American history gets all excited about 1776 without ever considering that for most of the continent the fight with the English wasn't the main news.
The Russians were running the fur trade.  I was interested in the description of the final destination for these furs in the trade capitals of central Mongolia.  They moved all the way from Alaska to present day northern California.  
The Spanish got all excited about the Russians being on the northern California coast.  They wer
Marilyn Getts
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A must read for teachers and history buffs. This book helps answer the question of the difference between the world of Washington and Jefferson and the one of Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson. In 1776 Russians were attempting to establish New Russia on the west coast much to the dismay of the Spaniards who had established settlements in what is now California. Slavery was commonplace. Genocide was common place. There is a common belief among Europeans that they are the superior humans in th ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars- I enjoyed the content I was unfamiliar with, but many historical factors (e.g. disease) are skimmed over. A good starting point for those who want a quick read on the rest of North America during the American Revolution.
Jo Stafford
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Samerdyke
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
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
1776 is a year seared into consciousness throughout the United States, due to our intense focus on a legislative chamber in the July heat of Philadelphia, and the evacuation of Boston, the invasion of New York and battles near Trenton, NJ at Christmas. It was a year of ideas and argument from men like Jefferson, Thomas Paine and in Britain, Adam Smith. And it was the year George Washington began the process of being a world-historical leader.

But, as historian Claudio Saunt argues, the events on
Kris Schnee
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
There are different lenses for studying history. For early North American history (at least for Americans) the focus is overwhelmingly on the eastern seaboard, its colonies, and the road to revolution. This book helps fill in other pieces of the puzzle that were going on at about the same time as the revolution.

There's a discussion of early land speculation on and beyond the Appalachian Mountains (which was a factor in the war itself and Washington's personal life). There's talk of multiple Indi
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a rather exotic look at American history. It focuses on people and actions, around 1776, but in the remote west of what would be the country. The book is well researched with lots of quotes and primary references, but it is told with the verve of good thriller novel and keeps the reader engaged. We see the development of Russian fur trade in Alaska, their movement down to California the counter moves be Spain to secure that area for their own interests. The need to supply the missions an ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
We U.S. citizens were taught so much about the Revolutionary War that freed the American colonies from Britain. The stories abound about the Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, the Green Mountain Boys, the Swamp Fox and Washington Crossing the Delaware.
But Claudio Saunt's "West of the Revolution" teaches that so much more about this world-changing period of history was happening in other parts of what was to become the United States and Canada: in Kentucky, Alaska, California, Colorado, the Black Hil
Alanna Spinrad
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This history looks at the territories that would eventually become part of the United States, but were not the original 13 colonies, at the time of the American Revolution. Spain and Russia vied to build settlements on the West Coast, and Native Americans lived throughout much of the central part of the country. The author does a nice job in highlighting the different cultural influences in different parts of the country, but I would have liked for him to bring the story up to the current day by ...more
Chris Burd
Having studied specific eras and events, I find myself now most interested in pulling together the context of what was happening in the world at the time of any given event. It's amazing the way that your perspective on something changes when you realize what events were happening at the same time.

This book specifically aimed to do that for the period of time of the American Revolution - putting into context the events happening throughout the rest of what is now the United States. It did a dec
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a neat idea, but stretched too thin for a full book - even at 177 pages. It's neat to discover that in 1776 Inuit traders were travelling to the interior of Russia or that the Spanish were finally trying to see what was between New Mexico and California. But these threads are so disparate that the book has little cohesion. Might have been better as a long read National Geographic article.
Nicholas Vela
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting read for my seminar on Early American History.

Saunt shifts the focus and decentralizes the American Narrative of 1776 from the Eastern Seaboard to the rest of the continent. In this way, Saunt truly makes a continental history of 1776. His use of sources to tell a narrative may raise a few brows, but it is by far an interesting, engaging, and enlightening book to read.
Carey Clinton
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forgotten/ignored history - great read

Had the pleasure of hearing about this book from Dr Saunt in one of his classes at UGA and was excited to read and get my hands on it once it was released.
Miles Smith
A good idea but the final monograph is a bit uneven. There are excellent chapters, but most approach the subjects in a workman-like fashion. Saunt might have explored the conversion experiences of Native Americans a bit more; usually he just writes them off as motivated by economic concerns.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not overly academic at all

A well written easy read. The author is adept at discerning relavent facts regarding European intervention in North America far west of what we would consider the settled areas.
My rating leans toward 3.5 stars. Enlightening information, I simply wish for better organization in presenting this material. (I may expand the review when on a real keyboard.)
Josh Reid
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Solid overview and an angle on 1776 that I greatly appreciate. Could be more nuanced in many places, though.
Peg Albrets
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
interesting book, read after i saw an exhibit at California History Museum
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“by the mid-nineteenth century, Plains Indian men were taller than any documented population in the entire world, standing about a half inch above European Americans and towering a full two to five inches over their sickly European counterparts. The Cheyennes, who were the tallest of all, were the same height as well-nourished American men in the late twentieth century.” 0 likes
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