Reading Suggestion

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    Would you suggest reading Alan Taylor’s “American Colonies” or Rothbard’s Conceived in Liberty volumes as a good introduction to the colonial era? I’m primarily interested in getting a context for the Revolution as Englishmen living in America, but I also want to learn about the local Native Americans as well, particularly non-Iriquois tribes and confederacies.

    Why would you suggest one over the other? I thought I had the best one in Rothbard’s book, but after looking at the reading list, I see that Taylor’s book, which I also have but have yet to read, is apparently really good, too.

    What’s the best book you’ve read about the Native Americans up to the Revolution?

    Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!


    Also, I’m wanting to learn more about the political systems of the New England colonies in order to better understand the life of one of my ancestors, John Webster. What’s a good book to read about colonial governments? For example,I want to learn what the following were:

    1. Court of Magistrates
    2. General Court of the Colony of Connecticut
    3. New England Congress
    4. United Colonies of New England

    Thanks again


    The leading expert on colonial New England is Perry Miller. A good introductory tome is Errand into the Wilderness. If that’s more than you want to bite off at once, you could try Edmund Morgan’s biography of John Winthrop. In regard to New England religion, try David Hall’s Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment. Colonial New England environmental history is fascinatingly discussed in William Cronon’s Changes in the Land. The subject of Godbeer’s Sexual Revolution in Early America is obvious. In general, I don’t know a good book on the Salem Witchcraft Scare, which anyhow wasn’t very important.

    I’m afraid I haven’t read Taylor’s book.


    Professor Gutzman,

    I noticed you said you’ve never read Taylor’s book but that is the recommended reading suggesting for lecture 1 of the course. Just wanted to make sure I got the right book or there wasn’t a mistake in the reading list. Maybe you recommended it because its highly thought of in the profession?

    I’m half way through it and have enjoyed it but noticed some reviews criticize it for a left leaning bias. I can see where they are coming from but personally didn’t find it over the top. One of the blurbs on the book says “Taylor challenges the traditional story of colonial history”. I’m no expert on the subject so its hard for me to know what parts of his book are new interpretations of events. Or are they mainly saying he just doesn’t tell it soley from the view of the colonizer’s?

    It was edited by Eric Foner who I know Brion McClanahan doesn’t think very highly of. Just want to make sure its the book you meant to recommend and if so why.

    Lastly, what other suggestions for that topic (the early colonial period) would you give in terms of a general history?


    Yes, Jeff, that was my reasoning.

    In general, I’m invested in an earlier generation of scholarship, which was dominated by Perry Miller, Edmund Morgan, et al. I can’t recommend a general survey of New England history (in fact, there isn’t a scholarly history of Connecticut from 1636 to present, so far as I know). I can however point you to narrower works.

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