Before the Revolution: America's Ancient Pasts

Before the Revolution: America's Ancient Pasts

by Daniel K. Richter


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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674072367
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 05/13/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 1,193,988
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Daniel K. Richter is Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History and the Richard S. Dunn Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Layered Pasts 3


1 Legacies of Power from Medieval North America 11

2 Legacies of Conquest from Medieval Europe 37


3 Crusades of the Christ-Bearers to the Americas 67

4 Crusades of the Protestants to New Worlds 88


5 Native Americans and the Power of Trade 121

6 Epidemics, War, and the Remapping of a Continent 143


7 Searching for Order in New and Old England 171

8 Planting Patriarchy in New England and Virginia 187

9 Dutch, French, Spanish, and English Counterpoints 212


10 Monarchical Power Reborn 241

11 Planters Besieged 265

12 Revolution, War, and a New Transatlantic Order 295


13 Producing and Consuming in an Atlantic Empire 327

14 People in Motion, Enslaved and Free 346

15 Contending for a Continent 369

16 Gloomy and Dark Days 388

Epilogue: Present Pasts 417

Notes 425

Further Reading 450

Credits 462

Acknowledgments 470

Index 473

What People are Saying About This

Karen O. Kupperman

By placing early American history fully in its Atlantic contexts and seeing all participants as historical agents, Before the Revolution allows us to understand the genuine parallels as well as the contrasts in the experience of Americans through their layered pasts.

Karen O. Kupperman, author of The Jamestown Project

Fred Anderson

With breathtaking sweep and profound learning, Daniel K. Richter synthesizes the histories of Europe, North America, and the Atlantic world from the late Middle Ages to the late eighteenth century -- and he does it, in ways that no previous writer has managed, without carving his story into discontinuous regional narratives or succumbing to the teleology of the American Revolution. This book is nothing less than a masterpiece.

Fred Anderson, author of The War That Made America

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