"The Shaping of America" by D. W. Meinig

The Shaping of America A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 1: Atlantic America 1492-1800 D. W. Meinig

Publication date:
27 Jul 1988
Yale University Press
524 pages: 254 x 178mm
87 b-w illus.


This entirely fresh interpretation of American history by a renowned historical geographer is the first in a projected three-volume series. Meinig here focuses on colonial America, examining how an immense diversity of ethnic and religious groups—Europeans, Africans, American Indians—ultimately created a set of distinct regional societies. Richly illustrated with more then forty specially prepared maps and contemporary illustrations, this volume prompts us to rethink the settling of North America.
“A standard work in its field. . . . For readers seeking a bird’s-eye view of early American geography. . . there is no better guide available.”—William Cronon, New York Times Book Review
“Simply the best book in the English language by a contemporary geographer I have read over the past forty-odd years, and one of the most important. . . . A magisterial achievement, a grand shaking up and reassembling of fact and ideas.”—Wilbur Zelinsky, Journal of Geography
“All historians of the American experience should read and come to terms with this book.”—Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Georgia Historical Quarterly
“This book is a masterpiece in the best and old sense of the word.”—Alfred W. Crosby, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"The Shaping of America will stand for generations as a research and publishing milestone. Its scope is simply breathtaking. . . . There can be no doubt about the superb and sustained scholarship exhibited by The Shaping of America. It is a truly astonishing achievement. . . . Meinig's project is simply stunning in its ambition as well as outstanding in its achievement. Its scope and its completion mark it as one of the most remarkable products of North American geography during the twentieth century."?Alan R.H. Baker, Journal of Historical Geography

?A story of the peopling of North America that is different, original, coherent, and altogether fascinating. It will be controversial but will be seen as a landmark in American historiography. . . . A magisterial work.??Howard R. Lamar, Yale University                        

"One of modern geography's most substantial achievements. . . . The project, taken as a whole and at face value, evokes the same sort of awe as (and many of the superlatives used to describe) the Grand Canyon. . . . The resulting volumes are notable feats of condensation, integration and interpretation. Each rests upon prodigious reading and the intelligent assimilation of arguments new and old advanced by scholars from a number of disciplines. In every volume, indeed it is no exaggeration to say on every page of every volume, Meinig writes with skill and care. . . . There can be no doubt that it is a remarkable achievement, one of the great accomplishments of twentieth century American geography. Meinig can only be admired for the scope of this ambitious project and the consummate skill and dogged resolve with which he brought it to fruition. He has painted a coherent and often compelling picture on a canvas far larger than most geographers have thought to address and which hardly any seem likely to engage in the future."?Graeme Wynn, Journal of Historical Geography

?A major scholarly work . . . researched in depth. . . . In this first volume, Meinig carries his thoughtful history to the close of the 18th century, when England's triumph in the centuries-long struggle was answered by the claim to maturity of 13 federated colonies or ?regional societies? in a boldly proclaimed Declaration of Independence. A fresh look at history.??Publishers Weekly 

?When I studied Texas seriously, I found D.W. Meinig's short, perceptive book, Imperial Texas, to be an excellent summary of things I vaguely knew, and a treasure of insights that I had not reached myself. Now he's tackling the whole country, and I expect equally fine results for his whole new series on America.??James Michener 

?Employ[s] a geographer?s perspective to explore ?social and cultural patterns.?  In doing this, Meinig ably proves that geography has been seriously ?undervalued? in the study of America's development. Especially noteworthy is Meinig?s major theme that America has been ?created by massive aggression against a long succession of peoples.?. . . Very highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.??Library Journal

?Meinig is to be commended for the broad, Braudelian sweep that he undertakes here. America, usually seen in isolation, is pictured as art of a triptych encompassing Canada and South America, with itself in the middle. History on a grand scale.??Kirkus Reviews

?A monumental platform from which to view the over-all growth of the New World. . . . Meinig gives us lucidly written and beautifully illustrated portraits of New England, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas, and the tropical islands of the Caribbean. He is concerned with American diversity, even if not in those cruder terms of an earlier day:  white, red and black, or Catholic, Protestant and heathen. He looks for basic social identities carried to the new side of the world. . . . [A] fine work.??Donald Jackson, Washington Post Book World

?The Shaping of America is a welcome proof that it is still possible, in this country, to provide ?geographical perspective? on a grand scale. Meinig is a geographer with a deep interest in, and knowledge of, history, economy, political science and the arts. His work provides a sweeping, panoramic outlook on one of the most important events in human history: the conquest of the New World by Europeans and the multiple interactions, through three centuries. . . . Using an impressive number of original sources, Meinig offers a clear and concise exposition, complemented with a number of quite original graphs and illustrations. . . . It should be required reading for any person?especially in politics or public life?who wants to understand the many forces and interests that shaped the United States and its neighbors in the New World.??Carlos B. Hagen-Lautrup, Los Angeles Times Book Review

?It has been nearly 40 years since anyone dared attempt a book like this?a comprehensive historical geography of North America?and no one before D.W. Meinig has embarked on such a project with so large an ambition. . . . There is little doubt it will remain a standard work in its field. . . . For readers seeking a bird?s-eye view of early American geography . . . there is no better guide available.??William Cronon, New York Times Book Review

?A work of immense scholarship, elegantly written as historical work at its best traditionally has been: sometimes heavy with detail but never pompous. . . . A superbly engrossing book.??Edgar Z. Friedenberg, Toronto Globe & Mail 

?One of those rare books which is both a scholarly study and as absorbing as a first-rate biography, which, in a sense, it is: the life of the United States. The spacious story is unusually well told, with a narrative sweep that takes in small farmsteads as well as the vast consequences of historical events.??House & Garden

?Simply the best book in the English language by a contemporary geographer I have read over the past forty-odd years, and one of the most important. . . . A magisterial achievement, a grand shaking up and reassembling of facts and ideas. Its publication is thus more than just a watershed event for our semi-visible college of historical geographer in North America.??Wilbur Zelinsky, Journal of Geography

?Would that more geographers dared to work at such a grand scale and wrote for such a wide readership in a way all literate persons can understand.??G. Malcolm Lewis, Geographical Journal  

?The Shaping of America, volume one, is one of the classic amalgamation of geography and history in the current literature. Meinig does a superlative job of demonstrating the inseparable nature of the two disciplines at this scale of examination.??Kenneth C. Martis, Journal of American History

?Given the quality of scholarship, organization, explanation, and writing, historians can only stand somewhat in awe and wait expectantly for the next installment. This is history in the old style, bold, sweeping, insightful, and majestic.??Reginald C. Stuart, Canadian Journal of History

?All historians of the American experience should read and come to terms with this book.??Malcolm J. Rohrbough, Georgia Historical Quarterly

"This is an important work, its forty specially prepared maps are thought-provoking, and the sweeping Annales-like scope awe-inspiring. Some of Meinig's generalizations, in both this volume and its sequel, which will have a continental rather than an Atlantic focus, are bound to be as controversial as they are intriguing."?Journal of the Early Republic

"A masterpiece of creative scholarship."?American Studies Inte