A well-oriented, well-written interpretation of the many forces at work in Europe that gave the American colonies and the young nation their special character. Much of the material should be familiar to high school history students, but too seldom is history taught in the setting where it belongs. For this reason, this is a mature and original conception. It lacks, perhaps, the imaginative spark that would make it a challenge, but the research is evident in the content, and there is that selective ability to highlight the vital factors. It presents such phases as the Dark Ages and the enlightenment that came with exploration and the Renaissance; it traces the power of the church- and the impact of the Reformation; the rise of a middle class and the conception of popular government. Then as the focus shifts to America, the author is at her best in clarifying the differences that distinguished the founding of Plymouth, of Jamestown, the dissimilar lines of their development, the contribution each made. The middle colonies then are discussed, with brief comment on the first communal efforts. And the study ends on the threshold of Revolution. In establishing in this way the background, the principles and ideals for which the war was fought and won, this goes much farther than other books in related fields. Whether high school students at this level can weight the too-balanced and objective approach (in attempts to be fair to all aspects) is a question time will answer. There is honest criticism of institutions ordinarily accepted without question. One would like to feel students could do this kind of synthesis for themselves; perhaps this will spur them to look at their historical material more intelligently. The author is daughter-in-law of Dean Acheson. And the publisher is planning an extensive promotion to place this book where it belongs- as stimulating supplementary reading.