Academic journal article Journal of the Early Republic

The Hudson: A History/The River Where America Began: A Journey along the James

Academic journal article Journal of the Early Republic

The Hudson: A History/The River Where America Began: A Journey along the James

Article excerpt

The Hudson: A History. By Tom Lewis. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Pp. 340. Illustrations, maps, notes, index. Cloth, $35.00; Paper, $17.00.)

The River Where America Began: A Journey along the James. By Bob Deans. (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Pp. 319. Illustrations, maps, bibliography, index. Cloth, $24.95; Paper, $14.95.)

Reviewed by Laura McCall

Contemporary Americans who motor along ribbons of highway often lose sight of the critical role played by the mighty and majestic rivers of North America. Bob Deans, author of TL· River WL·^ America Began: A Journey along the James, and Tom Lewis, author of The Hudson: A History, came of age in the environs of their beloved rivers, and each makes a strong case that his river represented the cradle of EuropeanAmerican civilization as well as the major gateway into the western frontier. Both wax poetic about the importance of place in the lives of historical actors. Their books are heartfelt and engaging.

Deans, a journalist for Cox Newspapers and former president of the White House Correspondents' Association, is a Richmond, Virginia, native who fondly recalls his childhood along the James. Tom Lewis is professor of English at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. His earlier work, Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highway System (New York, 1997), spawned a documentary that presents an impressive analysis concerning the social consequences of modern transportation arteriale.

The River WL·^ America Began and The Hudson open with discussions of the topographic characteristics of their respective regions as well as the geologic and climatic conditions that contributed to the formation of these grand bodies of water. The remainder of the books focus on people, with Deans providing extensive discussions of Powhatan and his vast confederacy, the first settlers to Jamestown, the Virginia dynasty of the Revolutionary era, and Virginians who figured prominently during the Civil War. Lewis, on the other hand, glosses over the Native American presence along the Hudson and directs most of his attention toward the prominent Dutch and English families who settled and subsequently dominated the valley through four centuries. …

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