West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776
© 2015 Claudio Saunt
In 1776, the bid of thirteen colonies for independence wasn’t the only interesting goings-on in North America. From Alaska to Cuba, colonial and native powers were fighting, trading, exploring, and competing with one another. West of the Revolution begins with Russian forays into the Aleutian islands, moves south to Calofornia, where Spain frantically attempted to create a safeguard after catching wind of the Russians, and then takes readers across the Rockies and plains until the Mississippi is reached. There, we travel south to Cuba, which was not only a prospering sugar plantation but a potentially powerful trading partner of the Creek people in the Southeast. Brief and full of interest, West of the Revolution not only sheds light on what else was happening in 1776, but provides the context for future developments in American history — the drive towards the Mississippi and the hunger for Florida. There’s also a rare look into Canada, or rather the Hudson Bay area and still later, a region that encompasses both Canadian and American states. A section on the Black Hills, known to Americans as the home of Mt. Rushmore, makes plain their importance to the Sioux and other tribes: the Hills are an oasis of rain in a relatively dry region, and for generations a source of food and materials in lean periods. I discovered this book via a podcast (Ben Franklin’s World) and can pass on the recommendation, no less for the information on Russian and Spanish colonization as for the tour of North America, this most diverse and extraordinary continent.