The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 254
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Jackson Turner. The "discovery" and colonization of the New World
was a product of western European character. The settlements that
would become the United States were products of English character
remolded by the wilderness. The American Revolution (a "full-fledged
revolution" [p. 304]) was the issue of American character. By con-
sidering "collective character traits" (p. 26) as important as, or as more
important than, the "combination of time, circumstance, and condi-
tion" (p. 26) in explaining these developments, the authors lend to
them a sort of inevitability while sidestepping the pedestrian digging
for immediate causes that most historians feel compelled to do. For the
Cattons, indulging almost as much in prophecy as in history, it becomes
only a matter of time until Europeans come to America, only a matter
of time before Englishmen make a special success of colonization, only
a matter of time before Americans make a nation. This approach re-
lieves the historians of a great deal of explaining.
This approach may also not be history. The Bold and Magnificent
Dream is one of those books that work backward. The Cattons view
everything as leading to the big event, the Revolution. Colonial history
is reduced to a series of "lessons" and "examples," each a "milestone
along the road to independence" (pp. 78, 202, 86), that robs events of
much intrinsic meaning. Occasionally the authors really get carried
away. While many features of early eighteenth century American life,
they argue, "pointed" (p. 148) toward Lexington and Concord, a few
"pointed" toward "the Age of Jackson and continental expansion,
Manifest Destiny, sectional controversy, civil war, and the rise of in-
dustry" (p. 148). What a heavy burden to place upon the 172os and
173os. But at least it makes the drift of the book clear. Once the Revo-
lution is past, the authors head straight for the next climax, the Civil
To say that this book is reminiscent of Bancroft, of course, is not
unalloyed criticism. It reads well; the narrative has an attractive flow
and sometimes real eloquence. The authors do best what the late Bruce
Catton always did best, personalizing and dramatizing historical events.
Baron Friedrich von Steuben at Valley Forge or Commodore Oliver H.
Perry at Put-In-Bay become gripping studies in personal character. If
only the fun of reading The Bold and Magnificent Dream was matched
by the profit of the exercise.
Texas ArM University
DALE T. KNOBEL
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/290/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.