Alan Taylor, . . Viking, $29.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87282-4

First in Viking's new five-volume series the Penguin History of the United States, edited by noted Columbia historian Eric Foner (Reconstruction), this book by Pulitzer Prize–winner Taylor (William Cooper's Town) challenges traditional Anglocentric interpretations of colonial history by focusing more evenly on the myriad influences on North America's development. Beginning with the Siberian migrations across the Bering Straits 15 millennia ago, Taylor lays out the complicated road map of ownership, occupation and competition involving the Native Americans, African slaves and Spanish, Dutch, French and English colonists. He covers settlement and conquest from Canada to Mexico, and from the West Indies and mainland colonies to the Pacific islands. "The colonial intermingling of peoples—and of microbes, plants, and animals from different continents—was unparalleled in speed and volume in global history," he writes. Taylor delves deeply into topics given scant mention in most histories: the crucial role of the West Indies in the 17th-century economy and the particular brand of brutality that supported it; cultural disparities among the many Native peoples that influenced their mutually dependent relations with the various colonizers. An extensive, chapter-by-chapter bibliography lists further reading. Even the serious student of history will find a great deal of previously obscure information, for instance that in the 18th century the Russian fur traders went much farther on North America's Pacific Coast than the explorers sent by the Russian crown. The book offers a balanced understanding of the diverse peoples and forces that converged on this continent early on and influenced the course of American history. Illus. (Nov. 12)

Forecast:This bold new view of early America should be widely and well reviewed, and will attract a broad range of students of American history.