Twenty-seven years ago, Bailyn released “The Peopling of British North America,” a terse “sketch” of a bigger project: an attempt to understand and recount “the westward trans-Atlantic movement of people” from Europe and Africa to the Americas. “One of the greatest events in recorded history,” Bailyn called it, with “consequences . . . beyond measure,” a vast migration that was “the foundation of American history.” At the same time, he issued the first volume of his project, “Voyagers to the West,” a study of the English who came to this land just before the Revolution. It won a Pulitzer. Now comes “The Barbarous Years,” the next installment. It circles back to a period that most Americans don’t hear much about in school: the chaotic decades from the establishment of Jamestown (England’s first permanent colony in the Americas) in 1607 up to King Philip’s War (the vicious conflict that effectively expelled Indians from New England) in 1675-76. Bailyn’s goal is to show how a jumble of migrants, “low and high born,” sought “to recreate, if not to improve, in this remote and, to them, barbarous environment, the life they had known before.”
more from Charles C. Mann at the NY Times here.