FORTY years have now passed since George Bancroft closed his History of the United States with the establishment in 1789 of our present federal system. Since that time the work of many competent historians has served to establish a better balance; colonial history can no longer claim anything like the relative attention which it received in the days of Bancroft and his contemporaries. It is, nevertheless, certain that the characteristic institutions and ideals of the United States cannot be fully understood without tracing them back to their beginnings in colonial times and on European soil.
It is equally certain that the scientific student of American origins is no longer content with the older interpretations. For the past three decades, such scholars as Channing, Turner, Andrews, Beer, and Osgood have exploited new materials, suggested new points of view, and often made necessary the abandonment, or at least the reconsideration, of time-honored traditions. It seems worth while, therefore, to take a new account of stock -- to trace in a single volume, for the general reader as well as for the student, the main outlines of our earlier history as they now appear after a quarter-century of research and discussion. Any such survey must of course be provisional only, because many phases of the subject have not yet been adequately investigated. The author has tried to write without bias, whether for or against traditional views, and with an open mind for new facts and new theories of interpretation.
With the general tendency of recent historical literature toward fuller recognition of economic and social, as dis