American Colonies. By Alan Taylor. (New York: Viking Press, 2ool. Pp xvii+526.
Introduction, acknowledgments, bibliography, index. ISBN o-670-87282-2.
As our English cousins carved out the Atlantic seaboard civilization destined
to join Texas by 1845, the remainder of North America continued as a stage for
other European exploration and exploitation. Alan Taylor's colonial history
skillfully juxtaposes the British experience alongside struggles of other Euro-
peans, Asians, and the Indian nations "found" on the new continent. Included,
and of particular interest to subscribers of SHQ, is a neat, abridged history of the
Southwest, a region destined as a stage for American expansion. Unlike its cus-
tomary place in so many general histories of the United States, the Southwest no
longer waits to appear as backdrop for the Mexican-American War. The result is
a more complete picture of the development of the American people.
For those of us in the American Southwest, the significance of American
Colonies is the alignment of the Southwest and Atlantic coast developments.
Many American survey histories glance at the conquistador, and pass quickly
over the encomiendas so as to return to the Virginians and New Englanders,
where "important" events shaped United States destiny. When the Southwest ap-
pears again (in 1846 in most cases), it often springs out from behind "door
number three," and we have little of "how and from whence" this land of Indi-
ans, conquistadors, prairies, and longhorn.
The Southwest did not wait to be discovered, as American Colonzes reminds us.
It was a stage upon which the ancient peoples (the "Indians") wandered in
search of game and grain. In the sixteenth century, Spanish Europeans preced-
ed their English rivals onto the continent, determined "to stay, to dominate the
land and its natives, and to weave the new land into an empire based in Europe"
(p. 36). What followed was a series of conquests, conversions, and alliances with
the native peoples. About the time that Britain and her colonists were waging
Queen Anne's War, New World Spaniards were inching into the Texas Hill
Country, expanding their mission system. The Indians learned the ways of the
invaders, however, and pushed them and the missions back toward San Antonio.
Texas and the Southwest were Spanish in name, but home to no single culture.
By the advent of a westward expanding United States, civilizations of the Indian,
the Spaniard, and the French had already vied for dominance. Only the land tri-
umphed, awaiting patiently the next contender.
American Colonies succeeds as a single volume for the broad picture of our col-
onization. This is not merely a history of the Southwest in context of Mas-
sachusetts. Taylor's impressive inventory of primary and secondary sources
blends settlements, wars, economies, environments, and sociology from all re-
gions beyond the customary scope of study. Taylor has not ignored the English
settlements, but he has expanded our sensitivity to the broader world in which
they occurred. What emerges is a better appreciation of e plurbus unum.
Southwest Texas State Universzty
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed August 21, 2014.