West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776

Sea_lionsAndrew Graybill at The American Scholar:

For years, Claudio Saunt vividly recalled the summer of 1976, when as an eight-year-old boy he went to see an enormous birthday cake that had traveled cross-country to his hometown of San Francisco in honor of the U.S. Bicentennial. The cake, purportedly the world’s largest confection, stood three stories tall, weighed 35,000 pounds, and was festooned with scenes from the American Revolution. But as Saunt, now a professor of history at the University of Georgia, explains in his marvelous new book, he was betrayed by his memory. From contemporary accounts, he has learned that the cake was actually a thoroughly local affair, created by a pastry chef to celebrate the Bay Area’s own 200-year anniversary, traced to the establishment of a Spanish outpost there in 1776. As Saunt puts it: “San Francisco’s history was at such odds with the narrative being celebrated for the national Bicentennial that my fourth-grade imagination turned the cake into a tribute to events in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere along the East Coast.”

West of the Revolution is Saunt’s attempt to take in what was happening at other places in North America at the moment that the 13 colonies—which together represent just four percent of the continental landmass—were declaring their independence from England.

more here.