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The Americas: A History of Two Continents Paperback – 4 Nov 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (4 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753818027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753818022
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"An imaginative, intelligent and sprightly volume that, in the space of some two hundred pages, races through the history of the Western hemisphere-from prehistoric times to the present."-The Washington Post Book World "This wonderfully sharp and provocative book should become essential reading for anybody interested in the history of America."-The Times Literary Supplement (London)"""Fernandez-Armesto can personalize broad historical trends without sinking into triviality. . . . History written at its best." -Booklist

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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3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Jun. 2012
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 By Shadow on 23 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazing how slaves influenced the development of both south and north America, as well as the central countries; equally amazing how the Puritan fathers of Massachusetts acted similarly to the actions of ISIS today in Iraq and Syria.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on 24 Oct. 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A Gem Among the Modern Library Chronicles 18 May 2003
By Ricky Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Interesting read - although not definite 10 Mar. 2006
By P. Berard - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
(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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
exciting concept; disappointing execution 22 Dec. 2010
By hmf22 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Some theories on how North and South developed apart. 14 Sept. 2004
By Kevin M Quigg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I will not rate this book 1 or 2 stars just because it is less history and more theory, but I think some of the previous reviewers are right in disagreeing with some of the authors statements. Fernandez-Armesto comes up with some quite interesting reasons why Latin America developed so differently than the United States and Canada. This is less history and more theory and conjecture. The reader should at least be open to some of these theories, because they can explain some of the reasons north and south developed so differently. Perhaps it was economic, political, or geographical, but Fernandez-Armesto tries desperatly to point that it was not the ethnic make up of the population. I agree with the author, but he should make that point up front, rather than dance around it.

This book is an OK read. Some of the other books in this series are more history than theory, so I was a bit put off by the subtitle of a hemispheric history, when in fact it is some theories about the inequality in the continent. The reader should keep an open mind to these theories, since they may prove to be true.
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