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The Americas: A History of Two Continents [Paperback]

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

4 Nov 2004

With his trademark range and independence of thought, Felipe Fernandez- Armesto sweeps aside the tidy separation between the enlightened `first world' United States and Canada, and less privileged `Latin America'. He shows us why it is impossible to understand the history of North, Central and South America in isolation.

From the emergence of the first human civilisations through the arrival of Europeans and up to today, the land mass has been bound together in a complex web of inter-relationships - from migration and trade to religion, slavery, warfare, culture, food and the spread of political ideas. For most of human history, it was the South that dominated the North - and, as he argues in his provocative conclusion, it might well again

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The Americas: A History of Two Continents + The Penguin History Of Latin America: New Edition + The Penguin History of the United States of America
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (4 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753818027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753818022
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Felipe was interviewed on the TODAY PROGRAMME (BBC Radio 4) on Monday 8th September and by RELAX WITH A BOOK on 29th September. There has been interest from the SUNDAY TIMES news review, for an interview with or an article by Felipe. Events: CAMBRIDGE HISTORY FESTIVAL (Sunday 7 September) - Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is taking part in an event called 'Making Sense of History' where he will explore the challenge of squeezing centuries into programme slots. CHELTENHAM (11 October) - Felipe will be in a debate with Hugh Thomas Reviews: 'The indefatigable Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has produced an admirably concise book of the world's most important and most contrasting continents.'THE BOOKSELLER 'Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is one of the most brilliant historians currently at work. All his books are bravura displays of erudition, fizzing with seminal thoughts, original ideas and new syntheses of existing knowledge. His lastest, ambitious project is no exception. The idea of wrting a synoptic history of both Latin and anglophone Americas is an audacious and inspired one.'Frank McLynn, THE INDEPENDENT (20.9.03) 'One of the most formidable politicalexplicators of our time is undoubtedly Felipe Fernandez-Armesto...[The Americas] really does manage to give a...narrative conviction to the whole story of the western hemisphere, prehistory to 2001, from blank on the map to world dominance. I read every word with admiration...Armesto...has given us an anthology of enthralling historical observations.'Jan Morris, NEW STATESMAN 'Fernandez-Armesto combines an original mind with a vivid pen and here he addresses a complex topic with precision and restraint.'Raymond Seitz, THE TIMES (3.9.03) 'This laudably short book is a stupendous and eminently readable exercise in comparative history...[Fernandez-Armesto's] gifts as an imagainative - and revisionist - historian will give his readers an exhilarating ride throughthe hemisphere - and provide television producers with a memorable script.'Raymond Carr, THE SPECTATOR (13.9.03) Reviews are also planned in the SUNDAY TIMES and LITERARY REVIEW --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A history of North, South and Central America, from prehistory to the present, by one of the world's best-known historians.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an overview more than a history 2 Jun 2012
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This a fairly interesting book covering the development of the Americas, and addressing the reasons why North America, and Latin America, have come to be seen so differently, despite being essentially a single land mass. The author touches very briefly on key events. For example the colonisation of of Latin America by Spain and Portugal receives very little attention and the American Civil War is mentioned only in passing. There is almost nothing about Bolivar's liberations and independence wars. There is a clear assumption that readers will already know all this (and much more), so this is not really a book to read if you want to learn about these events.

Instead this is more like an extended essay, comparing and contrasting the conditions in a range of countries. Almost inevitably the United States get the most attention here, but there is quite a bit too, about Brazil, Mexico, and Canada. However there is very little about most of the Latin American countries like Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile or Uraguay.

Fairly enjoyable reading but as the entire history of the Americas is covered here in just 170 pages, inevitably light on detail.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overview of the Americas 23 Feb 2008
By Shadow
While there are many comprehensive books about the Americas, such as the USA, the Incas, etc., this is book is somewhat unique. It gives an overview of the history of the Americas, both North and South, including the Native Americas, the Incas and Mayas. Furthermore, the book itself is not too long or complicated, so is an easy but informative read, for those people who do not have too much time to look at everything in great detail. An informative read.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Looking for America -- and getting lost 24 Oct 2003
This is a very strange book.
To be blunt, despite occasional flashes of insight, Fernandez-Armesto's grasp of facts seems shaky. Early in the book, he
announced the great achievements at Chaco Canyon were "between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries A.D." In reality, the
Chaco Culture (as it is properly known) began in the late 800s and collapsed about 1110 A.D.
He regards the Monroe Doctrine as an American idea, enacted at a time when the United States had four frigates to enforce
its provisions. In reality it was a post-Napoleonic British initiative, designed to prevent any European power developing an
empire somewhere in the Americas that might someday challenge Britain.
He says in Texas "you can see people in what amounts to the state dress: Stetson and cowboy boots." State dress? From
personal experience, "Stetson and cowboy boots" are common throughout the Southwest US and northern Mexico.
When describing the Maya, who flourished until about 1000 A.D., he writes "the system was designed not so much to
communicate as to keep secrets." So? That was true of European society in the same time span; it was a common feature of
most societies. People kept secrets to protect their advantages, the era of the tell-all blabbermouth didn't begin until the
Protestant Reformation. The Scientific Revolution was based on sharing knowledge, not on keeping secrets.
He is fascinated by Tierra del Fuego, almost ignores Canada, and completely ignores what became the industrial heartland of
North America because of neaby natural resources amd a superb network of lakes, rivers and canals. It's as if a history of
England said Hadrian's Wall was built in 400 A.D.
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem Among the Modern Library Chronicles 18 May 2003
By Ricky Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Pop history has few better writers than Felipe Fernandez-Armesto and he proves it again with the new addition to the always wonderful Modern Library Chronicles series, The Americas (A Hemispheric History). It is, in essence, a comparative essay showing how the idea of one America became the concept, through time, of two Americas. He does not use any trite triumphalist thinking in writing about America and one of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the author's demonstration that the similarities between the two continents, as opposed to their usually endlessly discussed differences, are numerous and essential in understanding their histories. This book is a refreshing look at the "New World" in a more global perspective. His examples, particularly from South America, are refreshing and insightful. The writing is a pure pleasure. A wonderful new book from a great series.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars (Fast) food for thought 11 Feb 2008
By Mani Tadayon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book presents the history of the Americas in an interesting perspective, but it lacks depth and refinement. All in all, it would have been far better as a long article than as a short book. The reader should already be familiar with US and European history, or else this book will be very confusing.

My knowledge of the Americas was typically unbalanced. I knew much about US history but next to nothing about Canadian or Latin American history. Therefore, this book's approach was very thought-provoking, putting the familiar story of America's rise in broader context.

This book attempts to look at the big picture, and in my view, fails. The interesting details are what made this book valuable. The author excels in collecting a diverse assortment of interesting knowledge: architecture in Brazil, genocide in Tierra del Fuego, Catholicism in Latin America, etc. He does little with this assortment besides debunking various straw-man arguments.

To understand the big picture in history is no easy feat. Fernand Braudel was the master of this. Indeed, I suspect "The Americas" was inspired by Braudel's chapter on "America" in his masterly (though somewhat dated) A History of Civilizations. Braudel's genius was not in amassing detailed lists, but in making sense of civilizations in their entirety. Fernandez-Armesto is smart enough to collect a vast, eclectic storehouse of knowledge, but has not succeeded here in digesting that knowledge into wise insight.

Anyone interested in big-picture history done right should look to OUP's Empire: A Very Short Introduction and The Renaissance: A Very Short Introduction.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read - although not definite 10 Mar 2006
By P. Berard - Published on Amazon.com
As the author says at the end of the book, this study of the full hemisphere - what is has in common and what trends set North and South apart - is quite new.

It is a refreshing read, one which gives a good perspective and questions rightfully the current cliche about North ever-lasting superiority vs South. The first half of the book is quite educating in its history of the South domination over the North and its causes. You get to look at the whole American continent from a brand new perspective.

The author also thinks that North domination will not last and that the Americas may someday be a more homogeneous group of countries.

Overall, I found all the theories in the book interesting and the historical background extremely educating. And the book is very short, so that's a profitable reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars great 25 Nov 2012
By Joe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What i especially loved about this book was how it packed a lot of good info into such a quick read. its small size might trick you into thinking this is for middle-schoolers, but its actually quite informative, yet highly readable. you get the academic knowledge without the academic bore.
3.0 out of 5 stars exciting concept; disappointing execution 22 Dec 2010
By hmf22 - Published on Amazon.com
In a short, lively, engaging book, historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto raises two important questions: Why do we now conceive of the Americas as two distinct cultural and political regions, "America" (meaning the United States and Canada) and "Latin America," when for centuries most people envisioned "America" as a single entity? And why did Latin America, the more prominent American region throughout the colonial era, slip into the background as the United States rose to the status of world power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Inevitably, in a book that runs just over 200 pages, Fernandez-Armesto addresses these questions in bold and impressionistic strokes. I agree with another reviewer who noted that the book is most accessible to readers who already know a good deal about the topic.

While I find Fernandez-Armesto's telegraphic style excusable, the personal digressions and eccentric theories of the later chapters are somewhat jarring. Some passages are amusing: "I am a Catholic, so . . . It would comfort me to believe that capitalism and imperialism are peculiarly Protestant vices" (193). Others lead one to wonder where Fernandez-Armesto got his information: "Mainstream America lives in small towns, where almost everyone knows almost everyone else" (196)--in fact, the United States has been predominantly urban since c. 1920. Still other passages made me wonder if Fernandez-Armesto fully realized what he was implying. For example, he praises Uruguay for being "more progressive than Switzerland, for most of the twentieth century, in women's rights, labor laws, welfare provision, and economic regulation" (184-185). Switzerland, which did not grant women suffrage until 1971, hardly provides a benchmark by which to evaluate a nation's progressivism! The book does include some more insightful passages, such as one in which Fernandez-Armesto questions the prevailing stereotype that North America is Protestant and Latin America Catholic, but overall, I felt that Fernandez-Armesto dropped the ball after a couple of provocative and interesting opening chapters.
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