Published in 2012 by Houghton Miffllin Harcourt Publishing Company
I have had Scott Weidensaul's The First Frontier for longer than a year, buried in my legendary pile of books (actually, I am more organized than that, they are all in 4 milk crates) but when I heard an interview with Wiedensaul on the John Batchelor radio show I was reminded to dig it out.
Weidensaul is to be commended for a very thorough job of researching the history of the relationship between the natives and the European colonists. The records are scant, the spelling is haphazard and so much of it is buried in myth and politics.
He starts with the disposition of the American Indian population prior to the arrival of Europeans. The limited history of pre-Colombian contact is discussed (with the Vikings and various fishing fleets) and the discussion of the similarities of differences of the various American Indians arrayed along the Atlantic coastline is quite interesting.
But, as Weidensaul's narrative continues and the colonies become established the book becomes quite repetitive and I found that I had to force myself to plow through what seemed to be an endless list of atrocities from both sides up and down the coast from Maine to Connecticut. There would be a misunderstanding, one side would strike back with violence, the other would escalate and then the European colonists would obliterate a native village, burn their corn and then there would be quotes with atrocious spelling and then it would start again in a new village.
|Hannah Duston/Dustin statue in Haverhill, Massachusetts|
The section on the Carolinas was better as it was told as more of a cohesive narrative but the section that ended the book with the beginnings of the occupation of western Pennsylvania was too long for a re-hash of the trends that had been happening since the early 1600s. I think the focus of the book was too much on catching all of the individual events and less on catching the trends and making the story something that was more friendly to the reader. This reader, who loves history, teaches history and talks about history all of the time found this book to be a well-researched but not very well-written. It was something that I had to slog through, which is too bad.
I received this book from the publisher at no charge through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.
I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon here: The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America
Reviewed on April 4, 2013.