Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans

Basic. Nov. 2014. 544p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780465011117. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780465080861. HIST
As a history of the English in 17th century America, and, in part, of those who remained at home, Gaskill's (Witchfinders) latest work is ultimately a disappointment. Though the author provides a great sense of the ambivalence of these early colonists and their continued connections with their homeland, the reader doesn't get to know these pioneers very well. Part of the reason for this may be that Gaskill is constantly introducing new people and situations. Only in the instances of major figures—Massachusetts governor John Winthrop, minister Increase Mather, and his son Cotton Mather, for example—do their stories continue throughout multiple chapters and thus become coherent. Such a start-and-stop manner of narrative means that many of the people and their lives begin to blur together and become indistinguishable. All of which is a shame because Gaskill's research was clearly thorough, and he has an immense understanding of the period, quoting ably from hundreds of primary sources.
VERDICT Though very different in intent and somewhat outside of the range of the period Gaskill covers, David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America would be a good substitute.
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