RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Cozzens puts his narrative skills to great use. His compelling prose and deep research in both primary sources and histories of the period combine to place the reader on the ground with the Shawnee brothers. He clearly explains the complicated geography and history of this contested place and time ... The book’s sharply drawn characters go beyond the central figures of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... rich and highly enjoyable ... The entire 29th regiment pitched its tents on the Boston Common. These scenes clearly pitted imperial power against colonial resistance, yet Ms. Zabin deepens our understanding by juxtaposing them with stories of real women and men trying to adjust to this awkward situation ... Among the many accomplishments of Ms. Zabin’s deep look at these interconnections is revealing the presence of black men and women in Boston’s daily life, a ubiquity that helps contextualize how the dockworker Crispus Attucks became one of the casualties of the Boston Massacre.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalRejecting facile judgements, Amherst College historian Martha Saxton’s brilliant and gripping book instead helps readers understand Mary Ball Washington within her own place and time. Drawing on local histories and archaeology as well as letters, diaries and a broad knowledge of related historiography, The Widow Washington is a clear-eyed biography of the mother of our first president and a fascinating window into the generation before the American Revolution’s founding fathers and mothers ...The book’s stark picture of Mary Ball’s upbringing leaves little room to view her as a woman of comfortable privilege ... There is so much marriage, childbearing, and death in Mary’s story that I started making a chart. I soon gave up, though...mostly because Ms. Saxton guides the reader so carefully through all of these details that her portraits remain memorable ... There is no romanticizing of colonial Virginia in this book. Ms. Saxton places the hardships of women like Mary firmly within the context of a society based on slavery, acknowledging that enslaved women and men had it far worse ... Mary Ball Washington was the matriarch of a successful family in a patriarchal world—a world that Ms. Saxton memorably recreates, and the world from which our country was born.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalIn his gripping new book...historian Patrick Spero reveals how differing hopes for North America’s future led to different views of peace and war ... Mr. Spero, the director of the American Philosophical Society Library, has produced an excellent and important explication of frontier tensions and their world-shaking consequences. His new book does what the best histories do: It places readers at the scene—whether with grumbling frontiersmen in Cunningham’s Tavern who rise in anger as a party of traders walks in, or amid a large gathering of Native leaders at Fort Chartres singing a war song to threaten a British envoy—and makes us wonder what will happen next.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Kelly, a literature professor at the College of Charleston, takes as his subject Jamestown’s common men, arguing that they were metaphorically (and sometimes literally) shipwrecked in other men’s dreams, forced to forge their own path toward America’s future. The author meanders through topics only loosely connected to Jamestown ... But I wonder who, outside of New England, still sees Plymouth as the foundation of the United States. History textbooks today mention Jamestown as well as St. Augustine and Santa Fe alongside New England. My own kids, learning history in North Carolina public schools would point to Roanoke or the American Revolution if asked about America’s founding. And I suspect few students in San Diego and St. Louis would choose Plymouth. Joseph Kelly is beating a horse that died in the previous century ... But of course our founding myths do describe the people we want to be—so maybe the Virginia Co.’s plan for a civil public life with responsible leaders and economic opportunities for everyone is a good history to revive after all.
PanThe Wall Street Journal... Mr. Horn persuasively argues that white Virginians saw no paradox in slavery, approved of by the Bible and already entrenched in the American colonies ... Maybe writing an erudite book should be enough for an author, but Messrs. Kelly [author of Marooned: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin] and Horn strive for greater significance. As their subtitles imply, they feel the need to justify yet another book on Jamestown. Both authors suggest Americans should replace Plymouth Rock with Jamestown as our founding national story. But I wonder who, outside of New England, still sees Plymouth as the foundation of the United States ... Joseph Kelly and Jim Horn are beating a horse that died in the previous century ... Why pick one founding story out of the complex and fascinating past of this huge country?
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn Of Arms and Artists, their experience in and depictions of the Revolution provide an effect similar to a series of well-done portraits introduced by a knowledgeable guide ... Mr. Staiti, too focused on a Patriot-Tory dichotomy, dismisses the painting ['Watson and the Shark'] as portraying an insignificant event in the life of the unsympathetic Tory Watson and calls the inclusion of a black man a 'cynical propaganda stunt' to criticize the Revolution’s slaveholders.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalJane Kamensky’s book is more like one of these narrative paintings, a broad canvas in full color ... in the hands of this Harvard historian, background images are as vivid and detailed as the man in the foreground, and the picture she paints is not a static portrait but a drama in motion ... Ms. Kamensky is particularly adept at describing and contextualizing color.