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27 of 27 found the following review helpful:
Easy and informativeJun 04, 2009
By A. Rehm
"enjoys having opinions about things"
Some people get turned off by Horwitz's light, popular style; he mixes his history with his own travelogues as he follows its trail, which means that parts of his books are about crappy hotel rooms and weirdos. All that fluff conceals a careful, sober researcher, though; when you're done breezing through one of his books, you'll realize that you learned quite a bit after all.
"A Voyage Long and Strange" covers the murky epoch between the original "discovery" of America and the 1620 Plymouth settlement, when men like Hernando de Soto and Cabeza de Vaca were wandering lost and starving through America, looking for gold and shooting everything else. Fascinating stuff.
27 of 29 found the following review helpful:
The Trail of Faded FootstepsMay 18, 2009
By County Lineman
There are around 40 counties, towns and cities in the United States that are named after Christopher Columbus, an explorer who never set foot in what is today the U.S.
Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Horwitz uses that fact to launch an exploration into the early adventurers on that vast landscape - including conquistadors, missionaries, pirates and brigands - through impeccable scholarship, humor and unique storytelling bolstered by his walking many of the areas that contain these faded footsteps in the dusty afterthought of history.
The first European who should be feted for the feat "awarded" to Columbus is Ponce de Leon, who landed in Florida in 1513. And it was French Huguenots who were the first Protestants to escape religious persecution in Europe by landing near what is now Jacksonville, Florida, and building a fort.
It certainly was a long and strange trip and one that has the twists and turns of incredible richness and drama. Horwitz brings those times back to life with vivid colors on a rich canvas that sheds light on the true facts and incredible fiction that continues to shape the debate on early America.
13 of 13 found the following review helpful:
Full circle - Plymouth rock back to Plymouth rockNov 14, 2009
By Joe Thorburn
First off, I enjoy historical writings written by journalists because they tend to add a more personal touch to the prose, something often missing in the pedantic-academic style of many professors. And, same as Horwitz, I have found myself relearning much of what was `taught' and forgotten. Pulling out my old college text that covers American history from Columbus to 1877 - I see about 19 pages in the front chapter covering 1492 to 1640. I now remember not remembering, because in all practicality, most of the history I was "taught' was my own myth; it never happened. This book is fun because it's like a road trip the rest of us would love to take, but can't, so we follow Horwitz around America and enjoy his discovery of how "American's don't so much study history as shop for it". Our ancestors chased all sorts of myths, discovering and creating truth and fact, that over time either got forgotten or recreated into new myths by more people following them. Columbus chased the "India" myth, the Spanish chased the gold myth, and each myth became melded to the next. The gory awful historical truths laid out next to the endearing myths, makes all our `relearning' more balanced and ultimately something we can enjoy to replace the blank or inaccurate sound bites remembered from our grammar school and college days. Thank you Mr. Horwitz.
8 of 9 found the following review helpful:
This book contains a wealth of informationOct 04, 2009
By Israel Drazin
Most people have no notion of what occurred during the century between Columbus' discovery of America in 1492 and the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620, or the events in America before Columbus. Tony Horwitz tells the interesting tales of the many dirty and disease infected Europeans who came to America before the Pilgrims in 1620 searching for gold for wealth, grapes for wine, Indian converts to save for Christ, a cure for syphilis, and slaves.
At first glance this history may seem ponderous, but this misconception disappears even after reading part of the first page. The book is written well, with wit and humor and with a scope of interesting details. Horwitz visited the sites that he discuses and describes what and whom he sees in a way that helps the reader understand the history that he is narrating.
The Pilgrims who came to America from England were not the first to settle in this country. Many Europeans preceded them. The Europeans reached half of the forty-eight continental United States. They introduced horses that the Indians had never seen, despite cowboy movies, pigs and diseases.
The first European city in America was not Plymouth, but St. Augustine, founded by the Spanish who celebrated a thanksgiving meal with the Indians fifty-six years before the Pilgrims allegedly did so at Plymouth. There is no proof that the pilgrims had such a ceremony. Anti-European bias probably caused the true history to be forgotten. Moreover, people are wrong who think that the first English colony in America was at Plymouth.
Jamestown preceded Plymouth by thirteen years and was the first permanent English colony in America. In fact, when the Pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower and came ashore, an Indian who spoke English that he learnt at Jamestown greeted them. These late arrivals were able to find large areas of free land because the diseases brought by the Europeans had killed so many Indians in the area.
The mortality rate at Jamestown was 80 percent and in Plymouth, half the Mayflower passengers died within six months of landing.
Plymouth was not alone in being incorrectly credited. The Norseman Leif Eiriksson discovered the eastern part of the continent long before the time of Columbus. The newly found land was called Newfoundland. However, the general area that the Norsemen settled - which some historians claim reached into northeastern United States was called Vineland because the Norsemen found good grapes and fertile soil in the land that they could use to make wine. Scientists found remains and confirmed that there was a Norse settlement in Newfoundland around the year 1000.
Columbus did not arrive until half a millennium later. While many Americans think that he discovered the United States, the truth is that we do not know exactly where he landed, but it was probably in the Bahamas, four hundred miles southeast of Florida, and he never set foot on United States soil. Columbus was generally wrong: he thought he traveled to India and he thought the world was shaped like a pear.
It was the Spaniard Ponce de Leon who was the first European to enter what later became the United States. He came to Florida in 1513, a century before the English arrived. He named the area Florida because of the many flowers that he saw. He was insulted in the press and a disparaging legend grew up that he traveled throughout Florida looking for a cure for impotence, a story that was latter changed to a search for a fountain of youth.
Horwitz tells how the Spanish explored and settle in America long before the English set foot on American soil, how they butchered and mistreated Indians, and how, among other atrocities, the first recorded sex between a European and an American, an Indian, was rape.
Horwitz also relates the history of the French settlement in Florida in 1564, generations before Jamestown and Plymouth. The French began their settlement with peaceful relations with the Indians, but it did not take long before they also began to kill them.
The English came to North Carolina in 1584, also long before the famed settlements, not to seek a safe place to worship or settle, but a land to plunder.
People will surely end reading this history being struck, and perhaps even bothered, by all the facts that were never mentioned in their high school classes and maybe even somewhat angered over the misinformation they were taught. Horwitz's book is an enjoyable way to set this matter straight.
5 of 5 found the following review helpful:
The true story about the settling of AmericaSep 13, 2009
Tony Horwitz does a brilliant job of sifting through the voluminous material available on the exploration and settling of America from the time of Columbus' first voyage to the West Indies in 1492 up through the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth in the early 1600s. He debunks many myths and fascinates us with information that should really be taught to any student in the U.S. before they graduate from High School. We learn that St. Augustine, Florida is really the earliest permanent settlement in the continental United States. It was Abraham Lincoln who proclaimed the last Thursday of November 1863 as Thanksgiving to acknowledge the sacrifices made for the Union -- not as a tribute to the Pilgrims. Horwitz acknowledges that he focused on ten historical episodes rather than attempting a comprehensive survey and it leaves us wanting to find out more. We don't hear about Samuel de Champlain or Henry Hudson, for instance. However, the work is accessible and engrossing and we come away with the knowledge that what is now known as the United States was abuzz with activity, both from indigenous peoples and European Explorers, long before the Mayflower sailed.
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