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The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity Paperback – Apr 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; Reprint edition (April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716729
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,377,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Geography & Technical Skill: Making of our Nation 9 Aug. 2007
By M. Fischlowitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Linklater's careful research gives a compenious narrative of the early mapping of our nation. The amazing
part of this book is the great effect that one man, Andrew Ellicot, had on the forming of our State and
National borders! As one who loves to read history through various prisms I enjoyed learning so many new
and important features of our early history, from 1780 through 1853! The only disappointment in this
book, and this may be only my personal predilection, was that there could have been many more maps
to illustrate the detailed narrative!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
On the shoulders of giants 20 Oct. 2007
By Observer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recounting the life and times of Ellicott, Andro Linklater covers a complex series of topics with elegance and a touch of humor. He weaves astronomy, celestial navigation, instrument making, land speculation, conspiracies, slavery, political intrigue, international relations, Federal, State, and personal finances, and neurotic personalities into the compelling tale of one man's pursuit of his life's passions. This is a terrific piece of writing: Clear, concise and insightful.

Andrew Ellicott was truly a giant and a genuine genius: He is an archetype both similar and different to Benjamin Franklin. What I found intriguing was the amazing impact that one person could have - yet be largely unknown. The story of Andrew Ellicott is certainly worth a PBS series. I lost interest a bit after Linklater in the last third of the book focused more on the division of the land and the emergence of pro- and anti-slavery states. Still Linklater continued to demonstrate an ability to convey the complexities of events and of leading characters such as Buchanan and Douglas.

Minor criticisms: The lack of footnotes and the lack of maps are two avoidable weaknesses. Was the publisher doing things on the cheap? The lack of footnotes is particularly annoying because Linklater uses some seldom cited sources and more specific references would be very helpful. Customized maps would have reinforced the detail and scope of Ellicott's work. The maps that are included are essentially unreadable. The Appendix is a useful idea but could have been extended to illustrate Ellicott's actual surveying techniques. Perhaps these are covered in Linklater's earlier Measuring America.

Despite the above, I strongly recommend the book. I missed Andro Linklater's Measuring America but it is now on order.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
All history should be written like this 7 Aug. 2007
By Allen K. Mears - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Fabric of America is a marvelous book. The author's writing style made it a terrific read but what captured my attention and kept me up at night reading was his book's approach or explanation about how setting borders was critical to the rise of the federal government's power and the drive to expand westward. Wrapping the history around the surveyor Andrew Ellicott was a masterful way of providing a human face to our expansion.

Two aspects I especially relished were the explanation about how the concept of land ownership sets America and Americans apart from citizens of other countries, and how post-Civil War reconstruction evolved. Maybe I knew all that at one time in my youth but this presentation was so fresh and lucid, I cannot believe I knew the history with the nuances and subtlety shown.

Buy the book, enjoy it, then pass it along to others.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A revealing, evocative narrative 2 Sept. 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Today's borders and boundaries actually consist of a pattern of lines reflecting the politics of the U.S. and the values which were revealed as the U.S. grew. THE FABRIC OF AMERICA: HOW OUR BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES SHAPED THE COUNTRY AND FORGED OUR NATIONAL IDENTITY reflects these changes, offering a different kind of American history based not on dates and events so much as by laws and the desire of the people to protect place, property and rights. How early immigrants were Americanized by experiences within America's boundaries, how unity was created from diversity, and what decided lines of battle and borders is all covered in a revealing, evocative narrative perfect for any public lending library's American history section.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
What IS this thing exactly? 19 Nov. 2008
By C. P. Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book seems to be trying to be several things at once. First, it appears to be a simple story of how the country and the states got their shapes (along the lines of How the States Got Their Shapes).

This, however, then morphs into a biography of Andrew Ellicott. He's a fascinating subject, and had quite a bit to do with the first topic, but he is in turned dropped for ...

An argument against Frederick Jackson Turner's famous thesis on the frontier and the shaping of America's character. (Linklater's own thesis is that settlers needed and wanted borders so they basically could get on with the important business of truly settling the land instead of just camping out on it - and it's a good argument too.)

This then turns into a simple rehashing of American history, with very vague connections to the first three themes. Yes, there was a lead-up to the Civil War and, yes, slavery played a role. Next, we somehow worked out how the defeated South would be incorporated with the rest of the country, though not in the idealistic fashion that the war itself may have promised. Also, did you know there was increasing industry and immigration in the latter half of the 19th Century? Amazing!

The connections to the other themes range from the extremely purple, abstract, and high-flying to the downright silly ("hmm, I wonder what Andrew Ellicott would have thought about this?"). Mix in some very random digressions (the stuff on the real Wild Bill Hickcock, for example, is fascinating, but I'm not sure how it relates to anything) and you've got a bit of a mess.

At the same time, though, some of the details on how our borders came about - as well as the human interest behind some of that - is genuinely fascinating. If the author had stuck to one of these themes, this would have been quite a successful little book. As is, though ... As one of my old writing teachers use to counsel, "Focus!"

That said, I have to admit I am tempted enough to try out his other book. Here's hoping that's a better read.
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