The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675

The Barbarous Years is the third volume in historian Bernard Bailyn's account of the growth of British North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, which includes the Pulitzer-winning Voyagers to the West. In this book, Bailyn sets the settlement of British North America within the context of both the Native American cultures and political tensions in Europe. He gives as much importance to Powhattan's expansionist policies in Virginia as to the Dutch rebellion against Spain, the Thirty Years War and England's subjugation of Ireland. The resulting "conflict of civilizations" occurs on many fronts over nearly a century of brutal encounters not just between European settlers and native peoples, but among the Europeans themselves.

In addition to what Bailyn argues is a "single, continuous Euro-Indian war" from 1607 through the 1670s, settlers suffered continuous and destabilizing conflicts within and between the colonies. British settlers found themselves at odds with the Dutch, Finns, Swedes, Walloons, Germans, Danes and French Huguenots over religion, culture and commerce. Large-scale landowners of all nationalities competed with both small planters and land-poor freedmen.

Bailyn's style is a successful balancing act between erudition and storytelling, large-scale history and telling detail. The general framework and many of the characters in Bailyn's stories are well known to anyone with a basic knowledge of early American history; the details are not. Poised as a refutation of what Bailyn describes as "gentrified" histories of the early colonies, The Barbarous Years is a blood-soaked--and illuminating--version of a familiar story. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins

Powered by: Xtenit