Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History

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University Press of Kansas, 2007 - 476 pages
Virginia is definitely for lovers—of history!

As the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America, the birthplace of a presidential dynasty, and the gateway to western growth in the nation's early years, Virginia can rightfully be called the "cradle of America." In this first single-authored history of Virginia since the 1970s, Peter Wallenstein traces major themes across four centuries in a brisk narrative that recalls the people and events that have shaped the Old Dominion.

Historical accounts of Virginia have often emphasized harmony and tradition, but Wallenstein focuses on the impact of conflict and change. From the beginning, Virginians have debated and challenged each other's visions of Virginia, and Wallenstein shows how these differences have influenced its sometimes turbulent development. Casting an eye on blacks as well as whites, and on people from both east and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he traces such key themes as political power, racial identity, and education.

Bringing to bear his long experience teaching Virginia history, Wallenstein takes readers back, even before Jamestown, to the Elizabethan settlers at Roanoke Island and the inhabitants they encountered, as well as to Virginia's leaders of the American Revolution. He chronicles the state's dramatic journey through the Civil War era, a time that revealed how the nation's evolution sometimes took shape in opposition to the vision of many leading Virginians. He also examines the impact of the civil rights movement and considers controversies that accompany Virginia into its fifth century.

The text is copiously illustrated to depict not only such iconic figures as Pocahontas, George Washington, and Robert E. Lee, but also such other prominent native Virginians as Edgar Allan Poe, Carter G. Woodson, and Patsy Cline. Sidebars throughout the book offer further insight, while maps and appendixes of reference data make the volume a complete resource on Virginia's history.

As people in Virginia and elsewhere prepare to observe the 400th anniversary of Jamestown's settlement, Wallenstein's fresh interpretation marks a significant commemoration of that beginning of Virginia—and America—and shows us that the adventure of Virginia has in many ways been the adventure of America.

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This book is one of the worst books that I have ever read. The book is actually a collection of poorly written student papers that are meshed together into a book that is less relevant than the wikipedia article on history of Virginia. If you want to learn about higher ed in Va, this book might be for you, but if you want to learn about anything else, look elsewhere.
The Civil War is 2 pages out of nearly 400. Wallenstein misses the watershed of Virginia history. The book is essentially irrelevant, but it is much better than his driving. Wallenstein hit a student in a crosswalk, then drove off. Hopefully he will include this event in the second edition.

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Do not buy this book if you want to learn about the History of VA. It is the worst book I have EVER read. Not only does it not really cover any specific part of history from VA, but it has 2 pages on the Civil War. The civil war should have been a major chunk of the book if it was to be considered seriously. Also, it was not written by Dr. Wallenstein but a bunch of History Honor students who have very different writing styles making the book even harder to read if you get past page ten. The sidebars have nothing to do with the text and the book is more about higher education history than anything else. I would give this text book a negative star if it was possible. Other people in the history department have said the book was bad. Do not buy this book, I only had to for a class, which was a mistake in itself 


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About the author (2007)

Peter Wallenstein is professor of history at Virginia Tech.

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