HISTORY

Colonial America: Facts and Fictions

ABC-CLIO. Jan. 2021. 228p. ISBN 9781440864261. $63. REF
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This book refutes 10 simplistic or flat-out wrong notions that cling to narratives of pre-Columbian through early Revolutionary America. Goss (history, Gordon Coll., Wenham, MA; Documents of the Salem Witch Trials) and multimedia developer Grishin debunk, among other myths, the idea that Pocahontas rescued John Smith from execution and that the two were in love, and the narrative that Manhattan Island was purchased for $24. The introduction summarizes colonialism and argues (countering recent public discourse pushing for a version of U.S. history that erodes the truth) that “nothing is more subversive to the present than lies about the past.” Goss and Grishin challenge the perception of harmonious, virtuous, freedom-loving settlers who treated Indigenous peoples fairly; instead, they stress that U.S. history is marked by violence and oppression. Their debunkings aren’t necessarily new, but books like this are crucial because of the perennial allure of the untruthful story. Each chapter discusses a myth and how it became popular, then explains the truth, insofar as it is known. The index, bibliography, extensive lists of further reading, and varied primary sources (sometimes fully or partly incorporated, and always identified) contribute value.
VERDICT Thoroughly researched, clearly written, and eye-opening in major and minor ways, this book will be valuable not only to academics but to all readers.
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