In the divided political climate of modern America, it’s time to look back at the differences, and the similarities, to the early days of the truly United States of America. In The Emergence of One American Nation by Donald J. Fraser, the spotlight is on the days of the founding fathers, their concordances, their bitter disagreements, their unions, and their separations. A new Constitution, and a new country, is born from the ashes of disparity. The history is laid out in simple terms, within the wider context of the Revolutionary War, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and the separation from the British Empire.
Fraser states a history of governmental experience that makes itself apparent in his knowledge and ability to explain everything from complex internal debates to the simpler moments of the age. It’s easily and readily understandable, with a fantastic layout of subjects that makes flicking to a particular point of interest a breeze. It seems like basic praise until you see exactly how masterfully the book has been crafted. The title really turns a potentially dry subject into something vivid and alive through some skillful, very low-key use of storytelling techniques to stoke the imagination. It’s subtle and very effective.
The book has many moments where the author’s own opinions are clearly present and makes the book less straightly factual. It should be clear to readers within seconds that the book isn’t merely a textbook record, but more an attempt at an extended essay with a focus the author’s personal highlights of the unification of the United States. It relies a lot on common academic knowledge for the general summaries of the context and outcomes of events.
A few more references throughout, and a more extensive bibliography, would have been brilliant to see, both to give a little extra backing to some of the more conjectural moments and for further reading when you inevitably find yourself wanting to find out more. The book also has a surprising number of typos within, considering an otherwise very substantial edit. It’s not enough to provide a stumbling block for readers, simply an unexpected problem in the context of the book’s overall quality.
For people with only a basic understanding of early American history, The Emergence of One American Nation is an excellent starting point; for readers looking for a deeper look into the Revolution’s lesser known figures, most interesting moments, and the proper context surrounding it, this book is also an outstanding resource.
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