In this introduction to his large-scale work The Peopling of British North America, Bernard Bailyn identifies central themes in a formative passage of our history: the transatlantic transfer of people from the Old World to the North American continent that formed the basis of American society. Voyagers to the West, which covers the British migration in the years just before the American Revolution and is the first major volume in the Peopling project, is also available from Vintage Books.
Bailyn, prize-winning Harvard historian (Pulitzer, Bancroft, National Book Award), is writing a multivolume interpretive history of the transatlantic movement of people from Europe to America between 1500 and the Industrial Revolution. This volume, which introduces the series, will be followed by Voyages to the West announced for publication in the fall. Despite the outpouring of specialized studies, Bailyn notes, the transatlantic movement of some 50 million people remains a blur, a story without structure and scale. He shows how the findings of diverse scholars will be brought together in his series by following several lines of interpretation: that migration was an extension of European domestic mobility; led to the creation of widely varying American urban settlements; and (fired by labor needs and land speculation) gave rise by the early 18th century to an America that was a ``ragged outer margin'' of British culture. These themes whet appetites for what promises to be an important series. (June 3)