The Barbarous Years review ✓ 103


The Barbarous Years

summary The Barbarous Years

From an acclaimed historian of early America a compelling account of the first great transit of people from Britain Europe and Africa to the British colonies of North America and their involvements with each other and the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboardThe immigrants were a mixed multitude coming from England the Netherlands German and Italian states France Africa Sweden and Finland They moved to the western hemisphere for different reasons from different social backgrounds and cultures Even the majority that came from England fitted no distinct socioeconom. I was primarily interested in reading this book as further background for my part time job as an historical interpreter at Pioneer Village in Salem MA This is a great curative for books that make our history sound like one long glorious march of progressThis is a scrupulously researched very detailed account of how the good old days were never really that good especially for the people who were convinced or coerced into risking a venture to the new world and the Virginia colony Corporate greed political intrigue poor planning and management and sheer stupidity are not modern inventions I also appreciated that Native Americans do not get a free pass in these accounts either Although there is an entire section detailing the Native American spiritual worldview the author's vivid descriptions of their inter tribal warfare political maneuvering and propensity for horrifically torturing their captives smash the rosy tinted revisionism of the politically correct It is refreshing to read a historical account of people being the kind of people you would recognize not paragons of imagined virtue There were virtuous people for sure but then as now they were generally in very short supply Basically most everyone was awful and deserved whatever horrible fate they came to They aren't called the barbarous years for nothingI enjoyed this book although it is not an easy read especially the second half which largely details the demographics of the people who came to the new world from where in England and why My favorite section of the book was the description of the Pilgrim uniue social experiment Out of all the groups that came to the new world described in this book the Puritans the Dutch Catholics the Pilgrims arguably stand as the most admirable if not actually heroic They appear to have been driven by the purer motives of preserving their faith and holding their community together rather than by commercial opportunities greed political ambition arrogance or the desire to evangelize both their countrymen and the natives Their efforts to survive against incredible odds and preserve the integrity of their beliefs is the most poignant partly because political changes back in England appear to make their achievements superfluous their leaders not realizing the huge impact that their experience would make to posterity Another section that I found particularly enlightening if chilling was his account of the evolution of slavery in the new world It goes from an almost incidental acuisition of African slaves from a captured Spanish ship to the realization that the drive to make money and the nature of growing and harvesting tobacco practically demanded a new system of slavery The way that rich white landowners and lawyers unuestioningly convinced of their natural superiority implemented and fine tuned this system over the decades deciding the fates of entire generations of human beings is as casually chilling as anything you will ever read and strangely resonant with our current corporate mindset If you are interested in a deeper analysis of 17th century history this book is for you

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E world they had invaded      Later generations often gentrified these early years of the peopling of British North America but there was nothing genteel about it Bernard Bailyn shows that 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 It is these vivid compelling stories that Bailyn gives us in this extraordinary fresh account of the early years of our natio. Famed Harvard professor and historian Bernard Bailyn tackles the settling of the North American continent yet again in which his latest account follows immigrants from France Finland Africa the Netherlands England and the provinces of Germany and Italy in the seventeenth century The book is full of a treasure trove of facts and meticulous research—and while granted this is necessary for any full length history—it unfortunately is so dense in detail from page after page that the reader tends to lose focus as Bailyn’s writing style is in the tone and flow of a textbookFocusing on the various Native inhabitants and their experiences with the newfound culture of their European and African neighbors Bailyn keeps to a structured methodology in developing each chapter on a different colony or territory—in what was then a vast and richly unconuered North America He discusses the various populations of each of these areas bringing about the various religious influences and sects their customs values and even the distinct skill sets brought over from the Old World Apart from the overwhelming display of facts and dryness mentioned Bailyn does excel in providing descriptive information on just about every participant in the New World’s colonization and transformation—from the infamous to the oft remembered—such as John Winthrop the Younger whose education and characteristics make it beyond evident that he was one of the early pioneers of the Enlightenment his world was broader than his father’s complex closely attuned to the new and exciting intellectual waves that were sweeping across Europe and the entrepreneurial possibilities they inspired So broad were his interests so serious his commitment to advancement in whatever form that in the end he could not avoid deviating from his revered father on the uestion of toleration and indeed he became an outspoken advocate of liberty of conscience so long as it did not lead to social or political unrestThe title of the book does not go unanswered as The Barbarous Years makes it clear that these were truly cruel and trying times—with acts of violence and brutality being displayed by Europeans Africans Native Americans neighbors countrymen and those previously thought to be trusted alike To conclude that the book fails in providing a comprehensive history of the North American continent and its immigration in the seventeenth century would be unjustifiable—as it delivers on this and so much However it feels as if Bailyn’s style and genius were ideal for the twentieth century audience and that present day historians—for instance Alan Taylor—have already mastered this task in bringing academic research to the written page in a way that’s both engaging and memorable Ten uniue maps are provided as well as over twenty illustrations Read the Full Review and More

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Ic or cultural pattern They came bearing their diverse life styles from commercialized London and southeast; from isolated farmlands in the north; from Midlands towns south and west They represented a spectrum of religious attachments They came hoping to re create these diverse lifestyles in a remote and to them barbarous environment In the early years their stories are mostly ones of confusion failure violence and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize situations and recapture lost worlds And in the process they tore apart the normalities of the people whos. I know it was bit of a slog and took months to finish but don't judge a book by how long it takes one to read it This is a masterpiece of historical writing If you want to know how it felt to be a part of the European settlement of the New World you can trust Dr Bailyn to be the one to give an accurate account of life in America in the early 1600's ILife in the colonies was not the often told celebratory tale of Thanksgiving cooperation which oddly is not covered in this book but rather terrifying brutish costly beyond imagination and short The deeply researched book shares letters telling of savagery failure and unrelenting racial conflicts According to the author life in the colonies was replete with bitter rivalriesscandalous accusations violent encounters assassination attempts executions and above all bloody massacres of the native Indians and earth scorching raids As in his other books Professor Bailyn a two time Pulitzer winner writes masterfully A wonderful book that will sure join the ranks of scholarly works relied upon for generations

  • Hardcover
  • 614
  • The Barbarous Years
  • Bernard Bailyn
  • English
  • 12 February 2017
  • 9780394515700

About the Author: Bernard Bailyn

Bernard Bailyn is an American historian author and professor specializing in US Colonial and Revolutionary era History He has been a professor at Harvard since 1953 Bailyn has won the Pulitzer Prize for History twice in 1968 and 1987 In 1998 the National Endowment for the Humanities selected him for the Jefferson Lecture the US federal government's highest honor for achievement in the



10 thoughts on “The Barbarous Years

  1. says:

    I'm proud to have copyedited this fine book

  2. says:

    This book was impressive and eye opening Certainly much different from the whitewashed history of American colonization I read Of course you get the general idea that the Native Americans got the short end of the stick etc but this book is horrifyingly descriptive in what specific populations did to each other native tribe to English tribe English tribe to Dutch tribe Puritan tribe to themselves etc Loved the nitty gritty details but also the very textbooky approach Definitely not a casual read you'll need your dictionary handy and maybe even a notepad to keep track of all the religious sects and specific termspeople but worth the effort

  3. says:

    I was primarily interested in reading this book as further background for my part time job as an historical interpreter at Pioneer Village in Salem MA This is a great curative for books that make our history sound like one long glorious march of progressThis is a scrupulously researched very detailed account of how the good old days were never really that good especially for the people who were convinced or coerced into risking a venture to the new world and the Virginia colony Corporate greed political intrigue poor planning and management and sheer stupidity are not modern inventions I also appreciated that Native Americans do not get a free pass in these accounts either Although there is an entire section detailing the Native American spiritual worldview the author's vivid descriptions of their inter tribal warfare political maneuvering and propensity for horrifically torturing their captives smash the rosy tinted revisionism of the politically correct It is refreshing to read a historical account of people being the kind of people you would recognize not paragons of imagined virtue There were virtuous people for sure but then as now they were generally in very short supply Basically most everyone was awful and deserved whatever horrible fate they came to They aren't called the barbarous years for nothingI enjoyed this book although it is not an easy read especially the second half which largely details the demographics of the people who came to the new world from where in England and why My favorite section of the book was the description of the Pilgrim uniue social experiment Out of all the groups that came to the new world described in this book the Puritans the Dutch Catholics the Pilgrims arguably stand as the most admirable if not actually heroic They appear to have been driven by the purer motives of preserving their faith and holding their community together rather than by commercial opportunities greed political ambition arrogance or the desire to evangelize both their countrymen and the natives Their efforts to survive against incredible odds and preserve the integrity of their beliefs is the most poignant partly because political changes back in England appear to make their achievements superfluous their leaders not realizing the huge impact that their experience would make to posterity Another section that I found particularly enlightening if chilling was his account of the evolution of slavery in the new world It goes from an almost incidental acuisition of African slaves from a captured Spanish ship to the realization that the drive to make money and the nature of growing and harvesting tobacco practically demanded a new system of slavery The way that rich white landowners and lawyers unuestioningly convinced of their natural superiority implemented and fine tuned this system over the decades deciding the fates of entire generations of human beings is as casually chilling as anything you will ever read and strangely resonant with our current corporate mindset If you are interested in a deeper analysis of 17th century history this book is for you

  4. says:

    I know it was bit of a slog and took months to finish but don't judge a book by how long it takes one to read it This is a masterpiece of historical writing If you want to know how it felt to be a part of the European settlement of the New World you can trust Dr Bailyn to be the one to give an accurate account of life in America in the early 1600's ILife in the colonies was not the often told celebratory tale of Thanksgiving cooperation which oddly is not covered in this book but rather terrifying brutish costly beyond imagination and short The deeply researched book shares letters telling of savagery failure and unrelenting racial conflicts According to the author life in the colonies was replete with bitter rivalriesscandalous accusations violent encounters assassination attempts executions and above all bloody massacres of the native Indians and earth scorching raids As in his other books Professor Bailyn a two time Pulitzer winner writes masterfully A wonderful book that will sure join the ranks of scholarly works relied upon for generations

  5. says:

    They were provincials listening for messages from abroad living in a still barbarous world struggling to normalize their own way of life no less civil they hoped than what had been known before This sentence from page 529 ends this great book I couldn't put it downI have two minor complaints with this magisterial work This is not the best summary of knowledge of Native American chiefdoms and culture conflict though it's very good on the Chesapeake Virginia and Maryland struggles In fact this is the only writing on Maryland's founding I have read since high school But the tumultuous King Phillip's War appears only at end of this period; description of that barbarous New England conflict does not appear but only the earlier and consuming Peuod War with its horrors Bailyn partially attributes frontier violence to the traumatic experience of the battle hardened veterans of European conflict such as the Thirty Years WarAs a Georgia resident I missed any focus at all on the Southeast colonies South Carolina appears in 1670 and I think North Carolina is right in there Florida was a force England had to counter especially in this period I'll have to read Bailyn's earlier Voyagers to the West to learn if he addressed this in an earlier work in his long career He cites a publication of his own in this 2012 book from his own writing in 1950 Highly recommended

  6. says:

    Very scholarly but engrossing work about those colonists you read about in the first chapter of your middle school history textbook and why the one dimensional images you were given are almost entirely wrongHostility to native peoples was rampant yes; but colonists were also hostile to any immigrant who had come from a town city or hamlet other than their own Starvation often because of colonists' unwillingness to adapt to the crops that best grew in their new environmentwas a constant Violent crime was continual Disease killed so many that a third of all children were dead before they were five and few marriages lasted a decade before one partner was deceased People who left England or the Netherlands or Sweden to escape religious persecution established communities in America in which they were intolerant not only to those of different denominations but also to members of their own Rancorous relationships with neighbors led many families to move again and again And again It is especially interesting to learn about something your history textbook certainly didn't tell you that many Puritan colonists who left England because of political repression returned home when the monarchy fell and Cromwell came to power This even though these Puritans had lived in America for a number of years building families and communities and establishing homesteads So many young people returned home that New England actually suffered something of a brain drain as old England became new and New England became old It's instructive if sobering to learn the unvarnished story of early European Americans but learning it makes for a richer compelling understanding of our country's history

  7. says:

    There aren't many history books I can read in 100 page chunks This was one Usually the only thing that stopped me reading was my eyes refusing to focus any longer I thought Bailyn did an excellent job of showing both the big picture and details of individual colonists His structure is geographical moving roughly north from Virginia to Massachusetts Sometimes this can make it difficult to keep track of how events correspond chronologically Also it felt like Rhode Island and Connecticut got a little shortchanged But it was nice to see so much attention paid to the colonies outside of New EnglandWhile there were conflicts between colonists and native tribes throughout this period there isn't a lot of information about the tribes in this book The 'conflict of civilizations' of the subtitle is as much colonists in conflict with other colonists as with natives Americans have apparently been obstinate anti authoritarian and argumentative since day one

  8. says:

    Dr Bailyn has created another masterpiece detailing the European settlement of what is now the United States I found the title particularly of note in that it extends to not only the physical violence of the clash between European and native cultures plus the extraordinary survival challenges faced by European immigrants as well as by the native Americans but also to the religious and philosophical conflicts dominating the Massachusetts and other New England settlements in these early years Dr Bailyn ends his treatise in 1675 just prior to the New England conflict called King Philip's War That war had a dramatic impact on both the European and native cultures As far as I can see he fails to mention this signal episode in American history not even foreshadowing it in the 500 pages of this monumental textI also found the detail on the Swedish Finnish settlements in middle America to be most enlightening and was gratified to see the treatment of the New Netherlands settlements as well Readers interested in pursuing the latter are encouraged to review Russell Shorto's The Island at the Center of the World for even detail on the impact of the New York area settlements on the development of the idea of AmericaLastly I note with amusement and not criticism in any way that this treatment of the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth makes no mention at all of the Thanksgiving tradition now so popular and beloved in American culture

  9. says:

    Famed Harvard professor and historian Bernard Bailyn tackles the settling of the North American continent yet again in which his latest account follows immigrants from France Finland Africa the Netherlands England and the provinces of Germany and Italy in the seventeenth century The book is full of a treasure trove of facts and meticulous research—and while granted this is necessary for any full length history—it unfortunately is so dense in detail from page after page that the reader tends to lose focus as Bailyn’s writing style is in the tone and flow of a textbookFocusing on the various Native inhabitants and their experiences with the newfound culture of their European and African neighbors Bailyn keeps to a structured methodology in developing each chapter on a different colony or territory—in what was then a vast and richly unconuered North America He discusses the various populations of each of these areas bringing about the various religious influences and sects their customs values and even the distinct skill sets brought over from the Old World Apart from the overwhelming display of facts and dryness mentioned Bailyn does excel in providing descriptive information on just about every participant in the New World’s colonization and transformation—from the infamous to the oft remembered—such as John Winthrop the Younger whose education and characteristics make it beyond evident that he was one of the early pioneers of the Enlightenment his world was broader than his father’s complex closely attuned to the new and exciting intellectual waves that were sweeping across Europe and the entrepreneurial possibilities they inspired So broad were his interests so serious his commitment to advancement in whatever form that in the end he could not avoid deviating from his revered father on the uestion of toleration and indeed he became an outspoken advocate of liberty of conscience so long as it did not lead to social or political unrestThe title of the book does not go unanswered as The Barbarous Years makes it clear that these were truly cruel and trying times—with acts of violence and brutality being displayed by Europeans Africans Native Americans neighbors countrymen and those previously thought to be trusted alike To conclude that the book fails in providing a comprehensive history of the North American continent and its immigration in the seventeenth century would be unjustifiable—as it delivers on this and so much However it feels as if Bailyn’s style and genius were ideal for the twentieth century audience and that present day historians—for instance Alan Taylor—have already mastered this task in bringing academic research to the written page in a way that’s both engaging and memorable Ten uniue maps are provided as well as over twenty illustrations Read the Full Review and More

  10. says:

    Do you enjoy curling up with a book filled with stories of torture slaughter and all kinds of nastiness? Well I have the book for you And since it’s about American History you can feel like a patriot as you read it Now there are many history books out there that cover America in the 1700s but there aren’t that many covering the century beforehand when there weren’t really “American settlers” so much as some rag tag groups of Brits Finns Dutch et al trying to find a new place to call home The popular myth we hear about American settlers is that they were escaping religious freedom While that was true for some the vast majority were over here to make a buck or to make a buck for someone else The ships were after all owned by businesses and those businesses needed to make money In order to do that they needed as many people as possible shipped to the new country and they took whomever they could throw on board – including criminals homeless and orphaned children along with religious clerics and college graduates When they first arrived they got on fairly well with the Native Americans mingling and trading together But then the Native Americans soon realized these new people were not just going to USE the land but were going to TAKE the land That’s when all hell broke loose From indiscriminate slaughter to stomach turning torture the settlers and Native Americans set to one upping one another on the violence scale It seemed to be the one thing at which both groups excelled Example one of the Native American specialties was dismembering a settler digit by digit – starting with individual finger and toe joints – until all that was left was a still living stump of a human which could live up to three days if taken care of properly There’s also an interesting story about settlers who decided to return to England after an overthrow of power there made the threat of religious persecution negligible Around 12 percent of the settlers returned – including one third of clerics and half of all college graduates Many of those that stayed in North America did so BECAUSE of the all the killing They thought to leave it now would have just made the venture seem pointless of course the Native Americans probably had other ideasObviously there is a lot of brutality in this book but it’s also an enlightening look at an era that is uite often ignored or brushed over in most history texts

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