THE FOUNDERS OF AMERICA by Francis Jennings

THE FOUNDERS OF AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-393-03373-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992




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