Books by Francis Jennings

Released: Sept. 1, 2000

"An outstanding supplement to the many conventional histories of the American Revolution, Jennings's history offers both an objective account of the conflict and challenging insights about historical distortion."
A detailed account of the less idealistic economic and political motivations that inspired the American Revolution. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A revisionist look at Franklin, focusing on his long struggle against the power of the Penn family and his evolution into one of the nation's first revolutionaries. Jennings (Empire of Fortune, 1988, etc.) dismisses much of Franklin's Autobiography as a series of half-truths designed, like a campaign speech, to present himself in the best possible light for posterity. Instead, Jennings suggests that Franklin's struggle against Thomas Penn, which is not even mentioned in the Autobiography, was central to Franklin's political development and is crucial in understanding his later revolutionary career. Founded by William Penn, the Pennsylvania colony was ruled, when Franklin arrived from Boston in 1723, as a proprietary colony by the Penn family. After establishing himself as a successful printer and newspaper publisher, and while making signficant contributions to the study of electricity and creating America's first lending library and philosophical society, Franklin challenged the intractable Penns for political primacy in the colony: He supported the Quaker politicians in the Pennsylvania assembly, many of whom he privately despised, in their resistance to Thomas Penn's bad faith dealings with the local Indians and his arbitrary, inept rule of the colony, largely from London. Franklin also emerges as a champion of colonial defense against incursions by the French and Indian tribes. Franklin became a dedicated servant of the Crown and was at first very successful representing colonial interests in London. Ultimately, he became the focus of royal ire and was denounced on the floor of the Privy Council in an episode that led to his final break with Britain. As Pennsylvania's chief statesman, he was instrumental in calling the first meetings of patriots that led to the formation of the Continental Congress, and ultimately to the Revolution. A fine portrait of the political side of ``the first American.'' Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

A latecomer in the outpouring of revisionist histories prompted by the Columbus celebration, this intensely idiosyncratic account reviews the centuries of conflict that led to the destruction of substantial Native American civilizations. Keen to show that the Indians of North and Mesoamerica were not so much civilized by a European presence as eradicated, Iroquois-specialist Jennings (Empire of Fortune, 1988, etc.) briefly notes evidence of major pre-Columbian settlements, from the magnificent Tenochitl†n in central Mexico, the heart of the Aztec Empire, to Cahokia and the mounds of the Mississippian culture to the north. Whites following in the wake of Columbus wrought havoc through enslavement, assault, and disease; in North America, the destruction was accomplished via the demands of trade as well. Much is made here of the notion of the frontier as an interactive zone rather than as a line of demarcation, where exchanges brought maize and tobacco to the newcomers, who brought horses and clover in return, and where intermarriage was acceptable until the supply of European women in the area proved adequate. The Iroquois Confederation figures prominently as the record of conflict between colonizers—French, English, Dutch, Spanish—is examined, but the larger picture of conquest, from CortÇs in Mexico to the US Cavalry at Wounded Knee, reveals that the main business was the wholesale replacement of Indian cultures with European ones. Wide-ranging and informative, if somewhat disorganized and not always cogent (e.g., a final note claiming a recent marked increase in Native populations on US reservations as evidence of a revival lacks conviction). A timely reminder of the importance of Indians in all periods of American history. (Eighty photographs; ten maps.) Read full book review >