Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Pasts
by Daniel K. Richter
Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 502 pp., $35.00
The greatest discovery made by the United States in the twentieth century was the discovery of its own diversity. If E pluribus unum remains, in its widest sense, an abiding aspiration, the country has been brought face to face with the fact that it contains within its borders a multiplicity of ethnicities and ethnic inheritances that the Founding Fathers could never have envisaged. In seeking to secure their own place in the sun, the different ethnic groups of which today’s United States is composed have also sought to claim their share of the past. Historians have responded by attempting to incorporate their stories into the traditional grand narrative and, in doing so, have broken it wide open.