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Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Bernard Bailyn gives us a compelling, fresh account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to British North America, their involvements with each other, and their struggles with the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard.
The immigrants were a mixed multitude. They came from England, the Netherlands, the German and Italian states, France, Africa, Sweden, and Finland, and they moved to the western hemisphere for different reasons, from different social backgrounds and cultures. They represented a spectrum of religious attachments. In the early years, their stories are not mainly of triumph but of confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize situations and recapture lost worlds. It was a thoroughly brutal encounter—not only between the Europeans and native peoples and between Europeans and Africans, but among Europeans themselves, as they sought to control and prosper in the new configurations of life that were emerging around them.
“If we are lucky, we will have our times analyzed by an historian with the intellectual and literary skills of Bernard Bailyn, who in his new book, The Barbarous Years, provides a highly detailed and meticulously researched account of the first great stage of England’s dominion over North America. Bailyn’s exploration of the forces at play is not new. . . . What is new is the painstaking detail, often extracted from previously untapped primary material that Bailyn uses to support his argument. . . . The Barbarous Years [is] a cornucopia of human folly, mischief and intrigue.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Bailyn, an eminent historian of America’s early years, has written a wide-ranging account of its peoples and their intellectual preoccupations—overwhelmingly questions of religion—that shaped the period between 1600 and 1675. . . . Bailyn has given readers a bracing, unvarnished account of a century that determined what would follow.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Throughout the book, Mr. Bailyn patiently explains the origins of the people who migrated to America. Readers learn which regions of England, the Netherlands and Scandinavia produced the most migrants, which social classes were best represented, and the extent to which young males predominated within various migrant flows.” —The Wall Street Journal
“No one is better qualified to survey the carnage at Plymouth than Bailyn. . . . [The Barbarous Years is a] nutritious colonial fare that Bailyn so masterfully sets before us.” —Harvard Magazine
“As Bailyn shows in his beautifully written introduction, natives and aliens were far more alike than we are accustomed to thinking.” —Maclean’s
“It is tempting to call The Barbarous Years: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600–1675, Bernard Bailyn’s third volume on the ‘peopling’ of the North American continent—he has already won a Pulitzer for an earlier volume—simply magisterial: sweeping, authoritative, commanding. But it is that and so much more. It has rare scholarly warmth, an understanding of how to be nimble with the material, to be an entertainer as well as a teacher, someone possessing both an easy familiarity with the subject combined with a responsibility—an eagerness—to keep an eye skinned for recent progress in the field, open to history’s secrets and surprises, finding the good stuff and steering clear of the fashionable. . . . What Bailyn does so well is to not only explain all the action but to pull it into a coherency, a great panoptical dazzle: what motivated people’s actions, how they conducted themselves and why.” —Christian Science Monitor
“The Barbarous Years, the long-awaited companion to Voyagers to the West, is an even greater achievement. . . . Both in the span of time he examines (the years 1600 to 1675) and in his effort to capture the full range of ‘the conflict of civilizations’ in the early European colonization of North America, The Barbarous Years is Bailyn’s most ambitious book.” —The Daily Beast
“Bailyn’s extensive skills at demography, material history, and ideological history are on full display.” —The Wilson Quarterly
“Magisterial. . . . Popular histories often gentrify these early events, but Bailyn’s gripping, detailed, often squirm-inducing account makes it abundantly clear how ungenteel they actually were.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This weighty book distills a lifetime of learning of one of our most authoritative historians of colonial America. . . . A history of the colonies built up of brilliant portraits of the people who interacted in these strange and fearsome lands. . . . This is not your school-book colonial history. . . . Penetrating and stylish. . . . An extraordinary work of profound seriousness, characteristic of its author.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Drawing on decades of sound, dynamic research, the author has provided scholars and general readers alike with an insightful and engaging account of Colonial America that signals a reset on Colonial studies, the culmination of his work. An important book. . . . Superbly told.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“In Bailyn’s perceptive and erudite hands, the original British, Dutch, and Swedish ventures assume as wild and variegated guises as did the forceful individuals who embarked on them.” —Booklist
“Bailyn spares no gory detail, but he treats his subjects with sympathy.” —The New Yorker