Friday, December 27, 2013

The Men Who United the States

 The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
© 2013 Simon Winchester
496 pages

The Men who United the States is a storied account of how the American people came to realize their ‘manifest destiny’, from the explorers who plied rivers and mapped the vast expanses to the technological tools that knit the continent together. It is organized thematically, utilizing the five elements of Chinese mythology: wood,  earth, water, fire, and metal.  Although most sections cover the full expanse of American history, the focus of each moves forward; ‘metal’ largely concerns revolutions in communications technology,  culminating in the Internet  while ‘fire’ covers the effects of the steam and combustion engines. Politics and war are downplayed: this is the tale of explorers and inventors whose dangerous  and enterprising deeds made political dreams a factual reality.  Winchester is a personable author, often inserting his attempts to retrace the tracks of some intrepid but doomed explorer along mountain passes or through river rapids. It's an odd element in a work of history, but works well enough despite sometimes bordering on off-topic.  Winchester makes for a winsome host through the annals of American explorers, and his work of adventure, history, and technological progress are sure to find a warm reception among readers.

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