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Colonial American History Reading Group

Colonial American History
Reading Group

Our Current Book

Before The Revolution By Daniel Richter

by Daniel Richter

The thought questions aren't intended to be "answered" but are just broad questions to consider (if helpful) as you are reading. They are intentionally broad and general. Have fun with them, use them as tools not like tasks. If you just enjoy reading a good book and don't wish to think about the questions that entirely fine. I hope everyone finds something meaningful in the group and the thought questions and optional reading may be helpful if desired.

Reading Schedule And Optional Thought Questions

  • Optional Thought Questions for the entire book:
    When reading this book consider how Latiin American colonization by the Spanish, primarily in the area that would become Mexico was similar and different from British colonization in North America.
    Consider the process from the viewpoints of Colonizers (European leaders), Colonials (Europena migrants) and the Native inhabitants and African slaves.
    How does the Spanish American experience effect our understanding of the "composite" or "layered" view of the unfolding of American colonial history put forth in Before the Revolution and our understanding of the "conflict" view put forth in The First Frontier?

    Optional Supplemental Reading: Conquest: Cortes, Montezuma, and the Fall of Old Mexico by Hugh Thomas

    If you are interested in the history of the Spanish Atlantic World, consider reading the triology by Hugh Thomas - Rivers of Gold, The Golden Empire and World Without End as a starting point.
  • Week 1: Before the Revolution - Prologue Layered Pasts and review the Introduction in The First Frontier

    Thought Questions:
    How does Daniel Richter organize his history? What metaphor does he use?
    How does the conflict theme used in the First Frontier differ from the composite theme in Before The Revolution?
    What similar themes are shared between the two books?
    What do you expect to be different between the two books?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    Colonial New Hampshire by Jere Daniell - Preface and Chapter 1
    The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Preface and Chapter 1
  • Week 2: Before the Revolution - Chapter 1: Legacies of Power from Medeval North America

    Thought Question: Before the Revolution looks at Colonial America as a new society created from progressive layers. How does the old society of North America also represent a "Layered past?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    Colonial New Hampshire by Jere Daniell - Chapter 2 and 3
    The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Chapter 2 and 3
  • Week 3: Before the Revolution - Chapter 2: Legacies of Conquest from Medeval Europe

    Thought Question: Before the Revolution looks at Colonial America as a new society created from progressive layers. How does the old society of Europe also represent a "Layered past?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    Colonial New Hampshire by Jere Daniell - Chapter 4 and 5
    The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Chapter 4 and 5
  • Week 4: Before The Revolution - Chapter 3: Crusades of the Christ Bearers to the Americas

    Thought Questions
    - What were the "official" and "unofficials" goals (or themes) of Spanish colonialism?
    - How did the conflict between "official" and "unofficial" goals demonstrate itself?
    - What were the motives, intentions, methods of Spanish colonialism and how did they align with their goals?
    - What was the general attitude towards Native Ameicans and how were they used by Spanish Colonizers?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    Colonial New Hampshire by Jere Daniell - Chapter 6 and 7
    The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Chapter 6 and 7
  • Week 5: Before The Revolution - Chapter 4: Crusades of the Protestants to New Worlds

    Thought Questions
    - What significant similarities and differences appear between Catholics and Protestants in their colonial history?
    - How was religion a motivation in colonial activity? How was religion an excuse for colonial activity?
    - In what ways did colonizers use " new world" exploration as a cultural substitute for earlier European crusades?
    - What economic similarities and differences exist in the political and social motivations for earlier crusades and "new world" exploration?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    Colonial New Hampshire by Jere Daniell - Chapter 8 and 9
    The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Chapter 8 and 9
  • Week 6: Before the Revolution - Chapter 5: Native Americans and the Power of Trade

    Thought Questions
    - How did Native Americans and Europeans view trade differently?
    - How were the goals of European and Native American leaders similar?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    Colonial New Hampshire by Jere Daniell - Chapter 10 and Epilogue
    The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Chapter 10 and 11
  • Week 7: Before the Revolution - Chapter 6: Epidemics, War and the Remapping of a Continent

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick - Chapter 12 and 13
    - Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry - Prologue and Chapter 1-2

Journals That May Be Of Interest

How To Participate in the Reading Group

This is a friendly group of people interested in reading great books about Colonial American History, mainly in the area that would become the United States from c.1585-1763.

Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of your previous experience in studying history. The goal is to read, learn and enjoy something meaningful. We read about a chapter each week.

Each week I will create a new Facebook post on our page for that week’s reading where the group can interact.

Everyone is encouraged to post their favorite or most meaningful quote from the chapter (about a paragraph with the page number/location) in the comments for the Facebook post covering those chapters. This is an easy, no pressure and meaningful way to express your thoughts on a chapter and is also a great way for individuals to go back and look at what others found meaningful. It keeps the focus on the author’s work rather than an opinion.

Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be avoided (you, your, you’ve) in replies.

Comments about the chapter or book are welcome as long as they are polite, respectful, relevant, non-partisan and constructive and focused on the author's work not someone else’s comment. A helpful guideline is that you are addressing the group, not an individual when you write. If you enjoy or agree with a post, liking their comment is a meaningful way of engaging the group.

Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be avoided (you, your, you’ve) in replies.


Of course if you don't want to post a quote or comment, you're still welcome to read along with us.

Individuals who understand English as a secondary language are welcome to participate. Please do not worry if your English is flawed, you are among friends who want you to be here. It’s wonderful you are interested in learning about our history and culture.


I will pick the books because someone needs to do it. All the books are from respected authors in Colonial American History that also have a reputation for being good writers. I've picked books from a variety of topics and viewpoints that collectively provide a good overview of the period. The optional supplemental reading will expand on or show a different viewpoint on the topic/period/event.

The books I would like us to consider reading are:

The first five books will provide a good solid overview of Colonial American History and the remaining books will explore a particular aspect of the history of Colonial America with a final book on Colonial America in 1750 at the end of the colonial era. The first two and second two books form nice comparative overviews of the period. All the works are college level in scholarship, well written and intended to be accessible to the general reading public and could easily be read by interested high school students.

My intentions for the supplemental reading will generally follow this plan for the first fiver books we read:

Book 1: The First Frontier – Supplemental Readings about the Virginia and the Carolinas. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the Eurasian region.

Book 2: Before The Revolution – Supplemental Reading about the New England Region including Plymouth and New Haven. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the Latin American area.

Book 3: The American Colonies – Supplemental Reading about the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland  and Rhode Island and religious minorities in the Colonies.  The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the area of central west Africa.

Books 4: The Americans: The Colonial Experience - Supplemental Reading on New York, Delaware, the area that would become Vermont and the French fur trade in the area around upstate New York. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the Caribbean and East Indies.

Book 5: Colonial American to 1763 – Supplemental Reading on Georgia, Spanish Florida and New Mexico. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the experience in Ireland.

The books come in an accessible format, so if you use text to speech for a vision impairment this will not be a problem. Some of the books are available through the Nation Library Service for the Blind. All are available in print from your local public library (possibly through inter-library loan).

I am open to changing books if their is a group consensus.

If someone discovers they are more drawn to the supplemental reading than the primary book wonderful. Please share what you find meaningful with the group.

The thought questions aren't intended to be "answered" but are just broad questions to consider (if helpful) as you are reading. They are intentionally broad and general. Have fun with them, use them as tools not like tasks. If you just enjoy reading a good book and don't wan't to think about the questions that entirely fine. I hope everyone finds something meaningful in the group and the thought questions and optional reading may be helpful if desired.

If you are a history student I think you will find the books we read and thought questions useful. Please feel free to share materials from your classes or studies as appropriate. If you are a history teacher, please feel free to recommend any resources, books or primary sources as appropriate.

The books come in an accessible format, so if you use text to speech for a vision impairment this will not be a problem. Some of the books are available through the Nation Library Service for the Blind. All are available in print from your local public library (possibly through inter-library loan).

I am open to changing books if their is a group consensus. Since the existing books will require some time to finish, I’m sure new books will be published that we may wish to add or substitute.

Everyone is expected to interact with others like they would in a normal classroom or business setting among colleagues and friends. The antisocial behavior common on the internet is not tolerated here. Regardless of the intent, politically partisan or inflammatory comments are not permitted. This is a group about Colonial American History, not 21st century current events. I am very serious about this point.

The group does not have room for people that choose to be disrespectful or get personally insulting or degrading. The group will not have room for anyone that abuses the group with malice, disruption or disrespect. This is a peaceful safe space for everyone.

The group also doesn’t have room for the “politically correct” police. Honesty sometimes requires being politically incorrect. If the intent was not malicious and the question or statement was honestly put forth in a respectful way there should be no problem and no one should seek to cause one. Blessed are the Peacemakers.

If someone is being disruptive, please ignore them or hide their comments, please do not respond. It is not worth your effort or time. Disruptive people get fuel from engagement to continue their negative behavior. They won’t be here long. I take the civility, decorum and inclusiveness of the group very seriously.

I hope we find a group of open minded, intellectually curious and active individuals. I don’t mind if we’re quiet, but I hope we are meaningful. It is my intention to act as a moderator/facilitator/participant, not as a teacher. Ideally the group will self moderating and sustaining.

There are wonderful episodes in American History. There are tragic and shameful episodes in American History. Honestly studying history is learning about both, not ignoring one or pretending the other does not exist.