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Description

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This panoramic account of 1776 chronicles the other revolutions unfolding that year across North America, far beyond the British colonies.

In 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, the Continental Congress declared independence, and Washington crossed the Delaware. We are familiar with these famous moments in American history, but we know little about the extraordinary events occurring that same year far beyond the British colonies. In this distinctive history, Claudio Saunt tells an intriguing, largely untold story of an immense and restless continent connected in surprising ways.

In that pivotal year, the Spanish established the first European colony in San Francisco and set off a cataclysm for the region’s native residents. The Russians pushed into Alaska in search of valuable sea otters, devastating local Aleut communities. And the British extended their fur trade from Hudson Bay deep into the continent, sparking an environmental revolution that transformed America’s boreal forests.

While imperial officials in distant Europe maneuvered to control lands they knew almost nothing about, America''s indigenous peoples sought their own advantage. Creek Indians navigated the Caribbean to explore trade with Cuba. The Osages expanded their dominion west of the Mississippi River, overwhelming the small Spanish outposts in the area. And the Sioux advanced across the Dakotas. One traditional Sioux history states that they first seized the Black Hills, the territory they now consider their sacred homeland, in 1776. "Two nations were born that year," Saunt writes. The native one would win its final military victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn one hundred years later.

From the Aleutian Islands to the Gulf Coast and across the oceans to Europe’s imperial capitals, Saunt’s masterfully researched narrative reveals an interconnected web of history that spans not just the forgotten parts of North America but the entire globe.

Richly illustrated, with maps that reenvision a familiar landscape, West of the Revolution explores a turbulent continent in a year of many revolutions.

22 illlustrations, 15 maps

From Booklist

The year 1776 was momentous and, as Saunt’s innovative survey shows, not only for American colonists rebelling against the British Empire. Beyond the Appalachian Mountains, events were in motion that would influence what peoples and powers would control North America. Geographically staged in nine regions of the continent, Saunt’s narratives broadly concern themselves with native peoples’ reactions to territorial expansions by European powers. On the Pacific coast, Russia advanced south from the Aleutian Islands, and Spain probed north from Mexico, with deleterious consequences for indigenous groups. Inland, the Lakota Sioux were migrating toward the Black Hills of modern South Dakota; the Osage of Missouri coped with the Spanish and British presence along the Mississippi River; and in the Southeast, the Creeks strove to obtain Spanish support against Americans expanding from Georgia. Saunt ably integrates local geographical and climatic conditions into the anxieties and actions of imperial officials on the scene while exhibiting insight into the predicaments faced by the pertinent Indian tribes. Taking uncommon perspectives, Saunt’s accounts will fascinate readers interested in the colonial history of North America. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

"An engaging, original, and thought-provoking book on what was happening on the American continent in 1776 outside of our traditional line of sight. The result is a fascinating new look at the most familiar of years."
Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

"A dramatic and compelling new take on the North America of 1776. With careful research and in evocative writing, Saunt brilliantly recovers the cultural diversity and many possibilities of a continent dominated by native peoples and coveted by several empires."
Alan Taylor, author of The Internal Enemy (National Book Award Finalist)

"Move over, Minutemen: teeming with Sioux hunters, Creek farmers, Aleutian traders, Russian trappers, and Spanish missionaries, West of the Revolution portrays America in 1776 as we’ve never seen it before. In a vivid narrative sweeping from Alaska to Cuba, Claudio Saunt upends the conventional vision of this moment, oriented around a handful of statesmen in Philadelphia. He enriches this history with travel accounts, material culture, and consistent attention to the natural environment. A revelation."
Maya Jasanoff, author of Liberty’s Exiles

"What might the American Revolutionary period look like without the Revolution at its center? Claudio Saunt''s remarkable book asks this counterintuitive question, and the results are revelatory. Its wide-ranging stories of different North American places and peoples are gems of historical investigation; together they reveal a continent gripped by upheaval, freedom struggles, and the search for new meanings."
Pekka Hamalainen, author of The Comanche Empire

"Highly recommended as a balancing tonic to more conventional Revolutionary books."
Bethanne Patrick, Washingtonian

"[A] panoramic view of North America… rife with fascinating facts."
Jacob E. Osterhout, Newsweek

" West of the Revolution offers a bold and inclusive narrative… It presents a corrective to the long-reigning popular historical narrative that regarded peoples and places in the West as insignificant in the American story… [it] makes a significant contribution to our understanding of this volatile and formative period in American history."
Doug Kiel, Chicago Tribune

"Saunt spins a tale as compelling and awful as a ghost story. Time and again, encounters that begin with transactions―in furs, crops, or religion―end in exploitation, violence, genocide. The vast, unwieldy continent, in Saunt’s masterful portrait, seems itself to be a symbol of ungovernable resistance― a necessary and timely addition to the heroic creation story we celebrate on July 4."
Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

"This is a history more terrible than wondrous, a necessary counternarrative to our enlightened Revolution… Saunt stretches the scope of his history to provide context and background… He has created a sweeping narrative of noncolonial America in 1776. But he is at his most colorful when he finds individual stories, such as that of the Frenchman floating down the Arkansas River with ‘one severed head and the corpses of two of his companions.’ The strangeness of proto-American history may be found in the details."
Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

"Perceptive and original."
Gerard Helferich, Wall Street Journal

"Brilliant."
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

"Provocative."
Ed Herschthal, Christian Science Monitor

"No one who reads it will think of 1776 the same way again."
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Claudio Saunt is the Richard B. Russell Professor in American History at the University of Georgia. He is the author of award-winning books, including A New Order of Things; Black, White, and Indian; and West of the Revolution. He lives in Athens, Georgia.

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4.1 out of 54.1 out of 5
145 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Kristopher M. Schnee
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An Exciting Piece Of the Puzzle
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2019
There are different lenses for studying history. For early North American history (at least for Americans) the focus is overwhelmingly on the eastern seaboard, its colonies, and the road to revolution. This book helps fill in other pieces of the puzzle that were going on at... See more
There are different lenses for studying history. For early North American history (at least for Americans) the focus is overwhelmingly on the eastern seaboard, its colonies, and the road to revolution. This book helps fill in other pieces of the puzzle that were going on at about the same time as the revolution.

There''s a discussion of early land speculation on and beyond the Appalachian Mountains (which was a factor in the war itself and Washington''s personal life). There''s talk of multiple Indian tribes and how their political and economic future was reshaped by the 1763 treaty of the Seven Years'' War, which put some of them under greater or lesser control of particular monarchs. I particularly liked the maps showing how certain tribes suddenly gained or lost trading partners, which was a sort of overlay on more traditional maps of which king claimed which land. There''s talk of the Spanish expansion in California as they began to colonize modern San Francisco, and the dangerous expeditions and raids they were involved in. Then there''s discussion of how the Russians were heavily involved in exploring Alaska to hunt for furs, and how they repeatedly clashed with the local tribes in an echo of what was happening on the east coast. Amusingly there''s a section on Spanish paranoia about the Russian threat to their north. "Sire, see this map?! The Russians are practically here already!"

So, this book helps provide a perspective that I knew little about despite studying early American history. I had also recently read a history of Astoria, an ill-fated attempt to colonize what''s now Oregon, so this book ties in well with that.
5 people found this helpful
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Denver Welogr
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Early history of the United States, a more complete picture...
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2017
When I was in school, 1700''s history was all about the thirteen colonies and their eventual independence. The rest of the continent was ignored, and any activities there assumed to be of no consequence. Saunt shows that the colonies were a minor story in a continent of... See more
When I was in school, 1700''s history was all about the thirteen colonies and their eventual independence. The rest of the continent was ignored, and any activities there assumed to be of no consequence.
Saunt shows that the colonies were a minor story in a continent of amazing long-distance trade and interaction between the native peoples. Along with those activities, sophisticated on their own, was the movement into the country of the Russians, Spanish, and French, all from different directions, to compete with the English, and all seeking to claim territory of completely unknown size and geography. This book is an eye-opener as to how the landscape was discovered, partitioned, and the interactions with the native peoples that have colored our opinions as a nation until today.
Read this book and change your knowledge of the early history of the United States.
4 people found this helpful
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Carla Ingram
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Go West and read this book
Reviewed in the United States on July 1, 2014
The author does a great job shedding light on events that are local as well as large in scope. It was fascinating to read about the local Native American tribes and how they were affected by the politics of world empires upon the West. I was especially interested in the... See more
The author does a great job shedding light on events that are local as well as large in scope. It was fascinating to read about the local Native American tribes and how they were affected by the politics of world empires upon the West. I was especially interested in the Lakota''s claim of the Black Hills, which was very informative. My only complaint was that as the author told the story of each topic he jumped around time quite a bit and made it hard to follow chronologically. And, at times he seemed to drift away from 1776, so don''t expect the book to be purely about that time period. However, this book gave great insight into life in the west and how those people were affected by elements such as the weather, early trading among natives and foreigners, geography (like why the Black Hills were ideal), and animals (good read on beavers).
42 people found this helpful
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Nico Vela
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Fascinating Read on the events of 1776 West of the 13 Colonies.
Reviewed in the United States on November 21, 2017
A fascinating read! Having purchased this book for a Seminar on Early America, this book shows the events that are transpiring outside of the North East. We see the Lakota and their claim to the Black Hills, of San Diego and San Francisco. It sheds light on areas that... See more
A fascinating read! Having purchased this book for a Seminar on Early America, this book shows the events that are transpiring outside of the North East. We see the Lakota and their claim to the Black Hills, of San Diego and San Francisco. It sheds light on areas that are often ignored in the context of 1776, as they were technically outside of America. It is nonetheless an interesting read and fulls one in on many aspects of 1776 that you don''t get in ordinary History Classes.
One person found this helpful
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Motorguy
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
More going on in 1776
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2021
This is a collection of interesting vignettes about what was happening in the world in the last part of the 18th century. It is an introduction to parts of history that we should know more about, but with the sorry state of historical education in the United States, most... See more
This is a collection of interesting vignettes about what was happening in the world in the last part of the 18th century. It is an introduction to parts of history that we should know more about, but with the sorry state of historical education in the United States, most people don''t. The book is entertaining and probably helpful.
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Important historical events
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2014
This book provides an interesting view of events happening outside the 13 colonies in 1776 in North America. These are stories that Americans, who are abysmally ignorant of their own history, should hear. My only complaint is that they are all too brief, covering such a... See more
This book provides an interesting view of events happening outside the 13 colonies in 1776 in North America. These are stories that Americans, who are abysmally ignorant of their own history, should hear. My only complaint is that they are all too brief, covering such a short period, and that there are too few of them. Even though these are essentially popular histories, the research involved in the writing must have been extensive. I hope that there are more in this genre, particularly covering the period before the revolution and ranging into the Caribbean and Spanish America.
10 people found this helpful
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Alan N De Carlo
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Uncommon history
Reviewed in the United States on February 15, 2021
Excellent history of what was happening in the United States at about the time of the Revolution. There was a big world out there that we often forget about in our insular thinking. I am especially intrigued about how poorly the Native Americans were treated and... See more
Excellent history of what was happening in the United States at about the time of the Revolution.
There was a big world out there that we often forget about in our insular thinking. I am especially intrigued about how poorly the Native Americans were treated and discounted as virtual non-entities. The author''s other book, Unworthy Republic is another scathing indictment of Western European avarice and brutality.
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The history we never knew
Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2021
The whole continent was abuzz with the exploration, colonization, and decimation of Indian communities to a degree hardly known. Should be taught in high school!
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Paul Thompson
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in Canada on June 10, 2017
Very well written
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