July 2011

Who Were the First North Americans

My daughter and I were putting together a dreamcatcher kit this week, and when we opened the kit we found a thin but packed book called Usborne Starting Point History: Who Were the First North Americans? Written by Phillippa Wingate and Struan Reid, it is an interesting, if a bit difficult to read (as many Usborne titles are), book that provides an introduction to native North American culture and history.

The book isn’t as satisfying as I’d like, as it mainly discusses native North Americans in a past tense, until the very end of the book; it also attempts to very neutrally portray the European invasion of North America, which makes it sound, of course, as if it were a very innocent occurrence. It’s intended for a younger audience, so it’s not like they could actually go into the mass deaths resulting from smallpox or the rape and cannibalism that early settlers engaged in. But there are some unsatisfying explanations about what happened between native people and settlers, too, such as answers to questions like “Did any tribes fight White Americans?” That’s a pretty unfair phrase, especially since the settlers instigated most fighting—and completely wiped out native populations.

"What If The Continental Army Had Lost The Revolutionary War?"

What If? Eminent historians imagine what might have been.


There are moments in history that we've always heard could have easily gone a different way. What if George Washington had lost his army at Valley Forge? What if the native Americans had decimated the first Virginia colony rather than saved them? What if the Crusaders had been able to hold Jerusalem in the 12th century? What if the Romans had never persecuted Christians? What if Hitler had been able to occupy England? In the Collected 'What If?' Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, some of our most prolific and provocative historians reimagine these crucial moments in history, and how things may have turned out much differently.

     The collected works of over twenty historians from two different books, this 827 page volume covers critical moments in history from the Bronze Age through Vietnam. Authors include Stephen E. Ambrose, John Keegan, James M. McPherson, David McCollough, James Bradley and the editor of the book, Robert Cowley, and many others. Each one takes a crossroads in history, imagining what it would be like had mankind taken a different turn. Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers, imagines a world in which the U.S./British combined forces were unable to take Normandy on D-Day. The implications of the U.S. and Britain unable to get a foothold in the European continent and suffering a massive defeat would have vast repercussions for the global landscape today.