Born on the Fourth of July - Juniata Historian Picks his Favorite Colonial-Themed Books
We celebrate July 4 as the birthday of the country and indeed the date has much more to do with colonial history than fireworks (sorry, Francis Scott Key wrote about "bombs bursting in air" during the War of 1812). David Hsiung, Knox Professor of History and a colonial historian, agreed to list his top 5 books centering on the colonial era. In alphabetical order, they are:
Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974). A convincing and very evocative explanation of the outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Salem in 1692, all based on imaginative and comprehensive research.
William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983; 20th anniv. edition, 2003). Clear and beautifully written combination of ecology and colonial history. Huge contribution to the relatively young (at the time) field of environmental history.
David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). An amazingly exciting, engaging, and imaginatively analytical narrative of the events surrounding Lexington and Concord in 1775.
James H. Merrell, Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000). A beautifully written and deeply researched study of a small group of people who straddled two worlds--the colonists' and the that of various Indians--in Pennsylvania, and the unbridgeable gulf that separated those worlds.
Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975). Morgan recreates a place and time better than most novelists can, and he tackles one of the big questions in American history--the paradoxical development of both slavery and freedom in America.