Before the Revolution

Before the Revolution

America's Ancient Pasts

Book - 2011
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Harvard University Press

America began, we are often told, with the Founding Fathers, the men who waged a revolution and created a unique place called the United States. We may acknowledge the early Jamestown and Puritan colonists and mourn the dispossession of Native Americans, but we rarely grapple with the complexity of the nation’s pre-revolutionary past. In this pathbreaking revision, Daniel Richter shows that the United States has a much deeper history than is apparent—that far from beginning with a clean slate, it is a nation with multiple pasts that stretch back as far as the Middle Ages, pasts whose legacies continue to shape the present.

Exploring a vast range of original sources, Before the Revolution spans more than seven centuries and ranges across North America, Europe, and Africa. Richter recovers the lives of a stunning array of peoples—Indians, Spaniards, French, Dutch, Africans, English—as they struggled with one another and with their own people for control of land and resources. Their struggles occurred in a global context and built upon the remains of what came before. Gradually and unpredictably, distinctive patterns of North American culture took shape on a continent where no one yet imagined there would be nations called the United States, Canada, or Mexico.

By seeing these trajectories on their own dynamic terms, rather than merely as a prelude to independence, Richter’s epic vision reveals the deepest origins of American history.

In this epic synthesis, Richter reveals a new America. Surveying many centuries prior to the American Revolution, we discover the tumultuous encounters between the peoples of North America, Africa, and Europe and see how the present is the accumulation of the ancient layers of the past.

Baker & Taylor
A book that spans 700 years of pre-U.S. history traces the deepest origins of America, looking at the Native Americans, Spaniards, French, Dutch, Africans and English in their home countries and as they grappled to find their place in what would become the United States. By the author of Facing East From Indian Country.

Book News
The last sentence of the prologue reads as follows: "This [book] traces broad patterns in the lives of generations of people who had no idea that something called an independent United States was in the future but who laid down the substrate on which we stand today. Their stories began a thousand years ago." Richter (American history and early American studies, U. of Pennsylvania) begins with chapters on legacies of power from medieval North America and of conquest from medieval Europe, then continues with 14 more chapters under the headings of conquistadores, traders, planters, imperialists, and Atlanteans. This is an eye-opening presentation on the deepest layers of American history. Belknap Press is an imprint of Harvard U. Press. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Looks at the encounters between the peoples of North America, Africa, and Europe centuries before the American Revolution.

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011
ISBN: 9780674055803
Branch Call Number: 973.01 R418b
Characteristics: viii, 502 p., [14] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm


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Nov 02, 2017

This book at times is dry reading, but very informative. Daniel Richer provides a lot of information broken into time periods, societies, trading eras, wars and how people thought. As a note when people are mentioned, everybody considers their group as 'the people' and everybody else outsiders. the first paragraph on page 350 shows an example of Richer's analysis of slavery.


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