Claudio SauntWest of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776

W. W. Norton, 2014

by Andrew Epstein on October 21, 2014

Claudio Saunt

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Few years in U.S. history call to mind such immediate stock images as 1776. Powdered wigs. Founding fathers. Red coats. And if asked to place this assembly of objects and people, a few cities stand out: Boston. Philadelphia. Williamsburg, perhaps.

This is the small world conjured by the Revolutionary era; the remainder of the continent, some 96% percent of the landmass exclusive of the original thirteen colonies that called themselves Continental, conceived of as a blank slate, awaiting inevitable expansion.

Claudio Saunt wants to change this.

Richard B. Russell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia and co-director of the Center for Virtual History, Saunt’s new book, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (W.W. Norton, 2014), explores nine American places and the diverse peoples who populated them in that fateful year, from the Aleutian Islands to San Diego, the Florida Gulf Coast to the Saskatchewan River.

By illustrating complicated webs of trade and exchange, competing empires and diverse Indigenous responses, Saunt makes the case that the stories of people like the Aleuts in the Aleutian archipelago, Miwoks and Costanoans of northern California, Creek Indians of the Deep South and numerous others deserve our historical attention as fully and richly as musket-bearing minutemen.

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