How North America Looked before the Europeans Arrived

By Brad Knickerbocker. Brad Knickerbocker is a Monitor writer . | The Christian Science Monitor, October 21, 1994 | Go to article overview

How North America Looked before the Europeans Arrived


Brad Knickerbocker. Brad Knickerbocker is a Monitor writer ., The Christian Science Monitor


THE DAY BEFORE AMERICA: CHANGING THE NATURE OF A CONTINENT By William H. MacLeish Houghton Mifflin 277 pp., $21.95 THE DAY BEFORE AMERICA: CHANGING THE NATURE OF A CONTINENT By William H. MacLeish Houghton Mifflin 277 pp., $21.95 THE 1992 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's "discovery" of America focused largely on the European experience. There was some effort to tell the story from a native American point of view, but this tended to be lost in the hoopla. Two informative, provocative, and highly readable new books go a long way toward providing a more balanced view.

"The Day Before America: Changing the Nature of a Continent," by William MacLeish and Roger Kennedy's "Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization" both explore the environment and cultures that preceded the arrival of the first Europeans. And with history as their guide, they both provide low-key but sober lessons for the future.

In his look backward across some 18,000 years, MacLeish takes a more ecological view. "What I was looking for," he writes, "was not people but land, lakes, streams, and seacoasts, all inhabited by plants and by animals...."

Drawing on the work of geologists and other investigators of pre-history, he tracks the changes in weather patterns and other shifts of nature that shaped the continent along with its plant and animal inhabitants. MacLeish also explores the theories of human development and migration, including the debate over mankind's arrival via a land bridge from Asia. The use of fire, the domestication of animals, the emergence of agriculture, and the development of civilizations are part of this history, as is their impact on the environment.

He also outlines what was happening in Europe during the centuries preceding Columbus's voyage and the subsequent exploration and settlement. More importantly, he discusses the difference in worldview between the two cultures and the impact one had on the other. Describing the development of rationalism he writes: "This, then, was the gaze Europe turned westward when it realized, finally, what one of its navigators had found at the other side of the alien sea. The mind behind it was creative and predatory, increasingly bedazzled by the power of linear thought and the enticements of progress. It was this worldview that swept west across continents dreaming different dreams."

There is judgment in this analysis, as there is in MacLeish's description of what was in store for native Americans. But he does not romanticize those first North Americans, realizing that, "If you are going to dehumanize someone, it may be better manners to do so with canonization than with calumny. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How North America Looked before the Europeans Arrived
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.