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Written in straightforward textbook style, this volume in the ""History of Human Society"" series (J.H. Plumb, Ed.), tells a familiar story and tells it well. Stating that his intention is to narrate ""the saga of the Americans before they began to profit very heavily or to suffer very seriously from the rise of industry,"" the author begins his study with an account of the American Indians and the arrival of the first English settlers. Describing the growth of the Colonies, he emphasizes the importance of English influence on their political and social development, and also gives an account of the discomforts of pioneer life: strange diseases, Indian forays, weather, poor housing, unappetizing food, and above all, the ""maddening swarms of insects"" that drove men distracted. Writing of the Revolution in political rather than military terms, the author analyzes the causes of American victory and its aftermath; the section on the making of the Constitution is one of the best parts of the book. Continuing through the decades leading to the Civil War, he tells of presidents and slavery, westward expansion, the literary ""renaissance"" of the 1830's and 40's, religious revivals, fads, to the final shock of the War and its effect on both North and South. Terse and well presented, with an extensive and valuable bibliography, this review of American life from Colonial times to the late 1800's will form an excellent text and reference book for students and armchair historians.

Publisher: Knopf