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Current Books In Brief

May 2024
1min read

Cities in the Wilderness: 1625-1742 (500 pp. $6.95) and Cities in Revolt: 1743-1776 (480 pp. $7.50), by Carl Bridenbaugh. Alfred A. Knopf.

Most people know that when the Revolution began, Philadelphia was the second city in the British Empire. America in 1775 had five cities of more than 10,000 people: Boston, New York, Newport, and Charlestown completing the list. In Cities in the Wilderness , published before the Second World War, Dr. Bridenbaugh ably depicted the founding and early growth of these centers; now he carries on the story from King George’s War to the great separation. One thread in the story is that of material and social expansion. These cities grew and thrived with extraordinary vigor, multiplying their municipal activities and social amenities. Another thread, as the title indicates, is that of revolt. Under the impact of commercial influences, the Great Enlightenment, and such forces as the rise of the middle class, the attitude of the people toward authority (particularly overseas authority) became ever more restive. Dr. Bridenbaugh gives us graphic pictures of life in the five cities, and glimpses of the smaller towns and countrysides beyond. His book is exhaustive in scholarship, symmetrical in plan, and clearly and vigorously written.

The King’s Peace, 1637-1641, by C. V. Wedgwood. The Macmillan Co. 510 pp. $5.50.

The English also had a civil war, and seventy years after Samuel R. Gardiner wrote his ten-volume history of that conflict, Miss Wedgwood—distinguished alike as scholar and stylist—undertakes the theme anew. This brilliant volume deals with the stirring occurrences which led up to open battle between king and parliamentarians. It may be said at once that Miss Wedgwood offers the best portraits of Charles I, Pym, Wentworth, and Hampden yet penned; that her opening chapter of social history challenges comparison with Macaulay or Trevelyan; and that while holding an impartial position in judging the two sides, she yet makes the reader feel the momentous nature of this struggle between two theories of government. The book is in the best tradition of English historical writing, which by and large has been the greatest historical writing in the modern world.

The Fifteen Weeks, by Joseph M. Jones. The Viking Press. 288 pp. $3.75.

One of the dramatic turning points in modern world history was reached when early in 1947 Britain, unable longer to bear the burden of resisting communism in Greece alone, turned to America. The sequel was that memorable exhibition of American statesmanship comprised in the enunciation of the Truman Doctrine on March 12, Acheson’s Delta Council speech on May 8, and Marshall’s Harvard speech on June 5. The Marshall Plan was soon in energetic operation. Seldom, as Mr. Jones (formerly of the State Department) writes, has the American government operated so efficiently and effectively, and seldom have the American people responded more quickly to leadership. To whom should the primary credit go? Beyond all doubt, to Dean Acheson. It is a thrilling story that Mr. Jones has to tell, and he relates it with inside knowledge and a proper sense of drama.

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