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Annual Editions: United States History, Volume 1—Colonial Through Reconstruction, Twenty-Second Edition
1. America's First Immigrants, Evan Hadingham, Smithsonian, November 2004
The conventional wisdom used to be that American Indians migrated to the New World via a now-submerged land bridge from Siberia. This view has been challenged by archaeologists who have found the remains of settlements dating at least 1,000 years before this supposed migration took place. What remains controversial is where these early peoples actually came from.
2. 1491, Charles C. Mann, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2002
"Before it became the New World," Charles Mann writes, "the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought." He surveys new research that indicates Indians lived in this hemisphere much longer than previously assumed, and that they had a larger impact on the environment.
3. Massacre in Florida, Andrés Reséndez, American Heritage, Winter 2010
In June 1564 French colonists built a fort at the mouth of St. John's River near present day Jacksonville, Florida. Spanish forces destroyed the fort a year later. This left a vacuum of settlements along the Atlantic coast that later would be filled by English and Dutch settlers.
4. Jamestown Hangs in the Balance, James Horn, American Heritage, Winter 2010
The English established a colony at Jamestown in 1607. Weakened by internal dissension, Indian attacks, and lack of food, the colony nearly collapsed before reinforcements and provisions arrived. The survival of Jamestown profoundly influenced the future of what became The United States.
5. A Pox on the New World, Charles C. Mann, American Heritage, Winter 2010
Disease preceded successful European settlements in the Americas in almost every instance. An estimated two-thirds to nine-tenths of the Native American population died from contagions against which they had no immunities. Later outbreaks of malaria proved a scourge to natives and newcomers alike.
6. Champlain among the Mohawk, 1609: A Soldier-Humanist Fights a War for Peace in North America, David Hackett Fischer, Champlain's Dream, Simon & Schuster, 2008
American colonial history used to be based on a single narrative: From Jamestown in 1607 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Fischer offers what he calls a "braided narrative" focusing on the efforts of Samuel de Champlain to create a humane French Empire in the New World.
7. New Amsterdam Becomes New York, Russell Shorto, American Heritage, Winter 2010
In 1664 the Dutch surrendered the city of New Amsterdam to British forces without a struggle. Promptly renamed New York, the city inherited the Dutch tradition of tolerance, free trade, and a multiethnic population.
8. Taken by Indians, Kevin Sweeney, American Heritage, Fall 2008
On February 10, 1676, Mary Rowlandson was taken prisoner by Native Americans during a raid on a small Massachusetts town. Wounded, she was held in captivity for 82 days before being ransomed. Six years later she published an account of her ordeal. It was the first and perhaps most powerful example of the "captivity narrative" which became very popular in American history.
9. Blessed and Bedeviled, Helen Mondloch, The World & I Online, May 2002
In 2001 the governor of Massachusetts signed a bill exonerating the last five individuals convicted in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The author of this essay examines the attitudes and beliefs that led to the persecution of at least 150 people.
10. Pontiac's War, Alan Taylor, American Heritage, Winter 2010
In 1763 the British executed a Native American Slave Woman for the murder of her master. Outraged by the thought of being subject to English law, a coalition of Indian tribes led by Ottawa Chief Pontiac captured a number of forts around the Great Lakes and in the Ohio Valley. The British succeed in placating Pontiac and his followers to such an extent that when the Americans later launched their own rebellion they found themselves opposed by these same tribes.
11. "The Sparck of Rebellion," Douglas Brinkley, American Heritage, Winter 2010
On the night of December 16, 1773, about fifty men, some disguised as Indians, boarded three British vessels in Boston harbor and dumped 300 crates of tea into the water. This "Boston Tea Party," according to Brinkley, "ignited events that would lead to rebellion, war, and, finally, independence."
12. The Gain from Thomas Paine, David Nash, History Today, June 2009
One of Thomas Paine's most important pamphlets, Common Sense, appeared in early 1776 and within months had sold 150,000 copies. In it Paine stated that "nothing can settle our affairs more expeditiously than an open and determined declaration of independence". Paine went on to become one of George Washington's most trusted advisers and wrote a number of influential pamphlets in behalf of independence from the mother country.
13. One Revolution Two Wars, Thomas B. Allen, Military History, January 2011
A popular view of the Revolutionary War is simple: It pitted American patriots fighting against the hated British Redcoats. But many American "Loyalists" remained faithful to the king and "provided the British with food, spies, and recruits." Allen tells the story of this vicious civil war.
14. God and the Founders, Jon Meacham, American Gospel, Random House, 2006
When members of the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in September 1774, a dispute arose over whether the session should be opened with a prayer. Meacham shows how the issue was resolved in a way that acknowledged religion without permitting it to be divisive.
15. A Day to Remember: July 4, 1776, Charles Phillips, American History, August 2006
The second Continental Congress actually declared American independence on July 2, 1776. Two days later it approved the Declaration of Independence, which was a kind of early-day "press release." Author Charles Phillips analyzes how Thomas Jefferson's draft statement emerged in its final form.
16. The Patriot Who Refused to Sign the Declaration of Independence, Jack Rakove, American History, August 2010
During the years before the Revolution, John Dickenson had compiled an impressive record of resistance to British encroachments on what the colonists believed were their rights. Yet he fell into virtual disgrace when he refused to sign The Declaration of Independence. Author Rakove analyzes Dickenson's moderate position, one that was shared by many others from the middle colonies.
17. America's Worst Winter Ever: And Why Mythmakers Chose to Forget It, Ray Raphael, American History, April 2010
In January 1780 the most severe winter weather in recorded history descended upon General George Washington's tiny army camped near Morristown, New Jersey. The suffering these men endured was far worse than that encountered two years earlier at Valley Forge. Yet the latter has come down in history as a symbol of patriotic spirit while the former has been almost forgotten. Author Ray Raphael suggests that the reason is because the troops at Morristown nearly mutinied and hence their ordeal does not fit into "the triumphal story of the Revolution passed down from generation to generation."
18. Franklin Saves the Peace, Thomas Fleming, American Heritage, Winter 2010
Despite the American/French victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781, the success of the American Revolution was far from assured. The Continental Congress had gone bankrupt and seemed headed for dissolution. Fleming argues that Benjamin Franklin's brilliant tactics in getting the British to negotiate a peace treaty and in getting the French to extend yet another loan really saved the day.
19. Madison's Radical Agenda, Joseph J. Ellis, American Heritage, Winter 2010
James Madison went to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 determined to forge a far more powerful national government than that under the existing Articles of Confederation. He was fortunate in having George Washington on his side on most issues. He had to make a number of compromises on what was known as the Virginia Plan, but mostly carried the day.
20. Wall Street's First Collapse, Thomas Fleming, American Heritage, Winter 2009
"Wall Street's first bubble swelled and burst in the Spring of 1792," writes Thomas Fleming, "exerting a profound effect on American politics and society." The collapse involved more than financial losses, serious though they were; it involved a fundamental clash between the philosophies of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over the direction this nation should take.
21. Adams Appoints Marshall, Gordon S. Wood, American Heritage, Winter 2010
When President John Adams appointed John Marshall Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1801, that body was under heavy fire as elitist and out of touch by Jeffersonian Republicans. Marshall almost single-handedly increased the prestige and independence of the court through his deft political tactics as well as his judicial decisions.
22. The Revolution of 1803, Peter S. Onuf, Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2003
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 more than doubled the size of the United States, which some Americans already believed was too large. This acquisition had enormous ramifications at the time and changed the course of the nation's history.
23. Dolley Madison Saves the Day, Thomas Fleming, Smithsonian, March 2010
The United States was in poor military condition when it entered the War of 1812. Morale was low and a series of defeats led many people to despair. Not so in Dolley Madison's White House. Although born a Quaker, she said "I have always been an advocate of fighting when assailed." Her conduct during the war, particularly in rescuing national treasures before the British captured the White House, made her a symbol of patriotism.
24. Abigail Adams' Last Act of Defiance, Woody Holton, American History, April 2010
Shortly before the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, Abigail Adams wrote to John "If perticular care and attention is not paid to the Laidies, we are determined to foment a Rebelion . . ." Her words went unheeded but she remained a staunch advocate of women's rights and a rebel until the end of her life. Author Holton discusses her unprecedented act of writing a will (at a time when married women could not legally control property) that left most of her assets to other women.
25. The Everyday Life of Enslaved People in the Antebellum South, Calvin Schermerhorn, OAH Magazine of History, April 2009
Invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s caused large-scale migration of slaves from the upper south to cotton growing areas in states such as Mississippi and Alabama. This resulted not only in the forcible separation of many slave families but in even more wretched working conditions for most.
26. Liberty Is Exploitation: The Force of Tradition in Early Manufacturing, Barbara M. Tucker, OAH Magazine of History, May 2005
Manufacturing in the nation's early years moved from the home to the workshop to the factory. Tucker analyzes this process, which involved the use of Child Labor and Pauper Labor. She focuses on the systems devised by Samuel Slater. The paternalism of these early years gave way to a system within which labor was considered just another cost of production.
27. From Detroit to the Promised Land, Karolyn Smardz Frost, American History, April 2007
In 1833 a Detroit judge ruled that a young couple that had escaped slavery some years before must be returned to their owners. His ruling touched off riots in the city. In separate incidents both the husband and wife were rescued and spirited off to Canada. Officials there refused to extradite the pair, thereby sending a message that Canada would be a safe haven for escaped slaves.
28. The Holdouts, Brian Hicks, Smithsonian, March 2011
Although only one-eighth Cherokee by birth, John Ross became the principle chief of the Cherokee nation during the 1820s. He and a full-blooded Cherokee, Major Ridge, acted as chief negotiators in the effort to maintain the tribe's independence from state and federal government. Their cause was doomed when Andrew Jackson became president, and the Cherokees (along with other tribes) were forced to move west of the Mississippi in what became known as the "Trail of Tears."
29. Polk's Peace, Robert W. Merry, American Heritage, Winter 2010
President James K. Polk extended American territory by one-third, partly by shrewd negotiations and partly by military aggression. Making peace with Mexico in 1848, to end "Polk's war," proved more difficult than getting into it.
30. Drake's Rock Oil, Daniel Yergin, American Heritage, Winter 2010
In August 1859 a crew led by "Colonel" E. L. Drake succeeded in drawing what was then called "rock oil" from the ground. "This event launched the American oil industry," writes Yergin, "a business that transformed the world." Had it not been for Drake's achievement, the use of "rock oil" in place of whale oil might not have occurred for decades.
31. The Emancipation Question, Tom Huntington, American Heritage, June 18, 2009
On the eve of the Civil War, a number of influential magazines and newspapers conducted a dialogue over the economic consequences of emancipation. Authors frequently cited the British experience in ending slavery in the British West Indies 25 years earlier.
32. Abolitionist John Doy, Tom Huntington, American Heritage, April 17, 2009
Early in 1859, the abolitionist John Doy led a small expedition of three whites and 13 blacks from Lawrence, Kansas, to protect the blacks against kidnapping by slave traders. A few miles outside of town the party was captured by vigilantes and taken to Missouri to be tried for stealing slaves. Doy faced more than 60 years in jail but was freed by a daring jailbreak.
33. John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry, Richard Cavendish, History Today, October 2009
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 was intended to touch off massive slave uprisings throughout the South. It never stood a chance of success and was quickly put down. Brown's execution, however, "gave him immortality as an abolitionist martyr whose 'soul is marching on."'
34. Free at Last, Fergus M. Bordewich, Smithsonian, December 2004
What became known as the "underground railroad" provided escape routes for thousands of slaves fleeing to freedom. Among other things, its existence convinced white Southerners that the North meant to abolish slavery if it could. Bordewich describes how the system functioned, and tells the more recent story of how the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (which opened in the summer of 2005) was created.
35. There Goes the South, H. W. Brands, American History, April 2009
From his election in 1860 to his inauguration the following March, Abraham Lincoln remained silent as the secessionist movement in the South gained strength. "Only at his inauguration did he muster the will to attack the secessionists head on," Brands writes, "By then it was too late to save the union peacefully."
36. Lincoln and the Constitutional Dilemma of Emancipation, Edna Greene Medford, OAH Magazine of History, January 2007
The Civil War began as a struggle over national union, but ultimately became a conflict over the continued existence of slavery. Author Edna Medford analyzes developments that led to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, by Abraham Lincoln.
37. Lincoln and Douglass, Paul Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick, American Heritage, Winter 2009
Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass had different priorities during the Civil War. Douglass wanted not only emancipation but full equality for Black Americans. The Kendricks tell the story of this unlikely relationship between this white country lawyer and a former slave. They conclude that "failure to fully achieve Douglass's vision of equality means that our Civil War is not yet over."
38. Steven Hahn Sings the Slaves Triumphant, Interview by Gene Santoro, American History, June 2009
In a book Steven Hahn argued that blacks made a much larger contribution to ending slavery than previously recognized. Indeed, he refers to it as "the greatest slave rebellion in modern history." He discusses his views in an interview.
39. A Slave's Audacious Bid for Freedom, David W. Blight, American Heritage, Fall 2008
After four unsuccessful attempts to escape, for which he was severely punished, Wallace Turnage finally made his way to freedom in 1864. Sometime in the 1880s, Turnage wrote a narrative of his ordeals upon which this article is based.
40. A Graceful Exit, Jay Winik, American Heritage, Winter 2010
By early April 1865 Robert E. Lee's exhausted and beaten armies no longer could continue conventional warfare. The dilemma facing Lee was whether to surrender formally or to disband his forces and have them regroup as guerilla bands. Had Lee chosen the latter course, fighting might have continued for years with disastrous results for all. Lee stated later "I surrendered as much to Lincoln's goodness as I did to Grant's armies."
41. How the West Was Lost, Chris Smallbone, History Today, April 2006
At the beginning of the 19th century Americans knew little about the Great Plains, which was referred to as the "Great American Desert" on many maps. The relentless push of white settlers westward displaced Native American tribes from their lands, a process speeded up by the construction of the Union-Pacific and Kansas-Pacific railroads shortly after the Civil War. Countless treaties were made and broken along the way.
42. 'It Was We, the People; Not We, the White Males,' Susan B. Anthony, American History, October 2010
On November 1, 1872, Susan B. Anthony entered a voter registration office and demanded that she be given the right to vote, threatening to sue if she were denied. Four days later she cast a vote for Ulysses S. Grant and was promptly arrested for illegal voting. In a speech defending herself, reprinted here, she stated that "every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes." She was found guilty.
43. The American Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction on the World Stage, Edward L. Ayers, OAH Magazine of History, January 2006
The Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction were seminal events in American history. The author argues that the war "has carried a different meaning for every generation of Americans" and "embodied struggles that would confront people on every continent."