Sunday, July 15, 2007

History week

It's History Week at the public library. Well, it's not really an official event, but we just happen to have a large influx of new historical nonfiction coming onto the shelves, so I thought I would spend the week taking you through our new offerings. In deference to the overall theme, I'll go in chronological order.

The Sack of Panama: Captain Morgan and the battle for the Caribbean by Peter Earle. Last week I did an entry on another new pirate book we have that details the rise of Captain Morgan. This one has a slightly narrower focus: Morgan's capture of the city of Panama in 1671. Earle discusses the politics between the kingdoms of Britain and Spain, the increasing number of skirmishes between the resident Spanish colonists in the Caribbean and the incoming British-backed pirates, and the fallout of Morgan's daring conquest. Thrilling stuff, indeed.

Fast-forward 100 years, and read Almost a miracle: the American victory in the War of Independence by John Ferling. Note that the word 'victory' is singular. This is one of the most interesting things about George Washington: with the exception of his defeat of British forces at Trenton and Princeton during Christmas week of 1776, Washington spent the bulk of the war in a state of almost perpetual retreat, managing to keep his troops and his precious artillery just out of the reach of the British. A single battle - Yorktown - managed to be a decisive enough blow to end the war, and Washington himself remarked that his victory was "little short of a standing miracle". We don't often remember what a sad, sorry group the rebelling colonists were, and it's very interesting to reexamine the birth of our nation.

No comments: