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  • The First Frontier

  • The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America
  • By: Scott Weidensaul
  • Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
  • Length: 16 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas

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Publisher's Summary

Frontier: the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier - the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans.Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground - when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.

The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories - like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern America’s tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.

©2012 Scott Weidensaul (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Acteon
  • Acteon
  • 02-07-2014

Worth a listen

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
Yes, but it was not as enjoyable as I had anticipated (I was really looking forward to it). However, it was well worth it.

What other book might you compare The First Frontier to and why?
Fred Anderson's The War that Made America, which covers some of the same period and events. In fact, if I hadn't listened to Anderson's book first, I would have a even higher opinion of this one, but Anderson often is more to the point and presents things in a clearer way. For instance, it was quite clear in Anderson's book why Washington became an aide to Gen. Braddock, but it wasn't in Weidensaul's account.

What aspect of Paul Boehmer’s performance would you have changed?
It was OK, but I found myself falling asleep more often than usual. His reading is somewhat flat, but not bad.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Immediately! Couldn't wait.

Any additional comments?
While I hate PC as much as anybody, I do not agree with another review's criticism. This book did not seem to me to present the Indians in a particularly PC way; to me, the presentation seemed fair and objective. The Indians were no saints, they could be treacherous and cruel, and the book does not hide this. What it does do is make us understand the complexity of the Indians' world when the Europeans started to wreak havoc. We tend to be insufficiently aware of how many they were before the Europeans came, and how complex the relationships were between different tribes [addition 2019: in this context, I strongly recommend Amy Chua's illuminating book, Political Tribes (2018)]. The great interest of this book is to give us a better sense of how things must have looked to Indians, and of the tragic misunderstandings between Indians and Europeans in addition to the Europeans' rapacity and prejudices. And even apart from inadvertently killing off nine-tenth of the native population through the germs they brought, on the whole the Europeans certainly behaved worse than those they considered inferior, and often to their own detriment.

16 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • James Moore
  • 27-03-2019

Good content, well written, poorly performed

I'm buying the hardcopy. I'm about half way through and I'm really enjoying the writing and the content, but the reading...I found I can't listen while driving, its a safety hazard. The reading is so monotone and flat that I actually thought a computer program was doing the "reading".

3 people found this helpful

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  • JustBill
  • 04-09-2018

If Only

What if American kids and most adults knew our history began 15,000 years ago? What if they knew that America was very active in the 1600s when the original Amish settled Pennsylvania and let the Indians slaughter them rather than lift a hand in defense. What if blacks knew long before they were slaves American Indians served that exact purpose and it was from their labors that the Plantation System started. What if American kids knew of the King Philip War? Our history is rich with barbarism 400 years before Washington and what if you were to find out that American Indians were not reasonable at all when it came to land usage. They slaughtered thousands in Pennsylvania taking advantage of a people that found even defending their families was sinful and of course that was the Amish. I have just skimmed over the first several chapters of this eye opening book but believe me when I tell you American maps might not look like they are today if it were not for gunpowder and guns and the Western philosophy of if I am standing on 300 acres then I must own it and of course I mean the Imperialistic English who always had their hands in the mud and blood.

3 people found this helpful

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  • R. Strickland
  • 02-08-2015

Bad narration kills it

I found the writing of The First Frontier passing fair but the narration is so bad I had to put it down after a an hour or so. The narration is stilted, with an artificial, monotonous rhythm that strikes an unpleasant nerve. No matter what is going on in the story Boehmer seems to be trying his utmost to add the same mid-level emotional resonance that seldom fits the mood. At every comma he slows such that he comes off as afraid he's going to lose the listener.

The content is interesting enough that if I was reading the physical book I would probably continue on, but not so interesting that I'm going to seek it out after returning the audible version as soon as I finish this review. There wasn't a promise of insight beyond what's available in other books and I could take or leave the prose.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Dennis F Rumsey
  • 10-07-2019

Early History of America and the first settlers

I found this book very en lighting and enjoyed it very much. I recommend it to those who enjoy American history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Eric Walden
  • 18-01-2019

War and Conquest in the really old West

The natives suffered for our success. That was innevitable, but regrettable. All of us here benefit now from that.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Eric
  • 24-07-2013

Too PC

I'm giving this book good marks because of the thorough content. The book was well researched and will give you a good glimpse of the chaos of the frontier settlements. However, I had to hold my nose half a dozen times when listening to the book. The author is a bedwetting liberal who finds it easy to blame "Whitey" first for most provocations along the frontier - often (not always) omitting information that the attacks were retaliations, ie. Paxton Boys, almost as if the frontier settlers just woke up one day and decided to raid an Indian village for no apparent reason.

The author tip toed around any historical reference which had the potential of offending Indians.

When describing attacks by the whites he uses the words ruthless, slaughter, massacre, etc. but when mentioning attacks by the Indian "Braves" and "Warriors" they just "killed" "Attacked" or captured the settlers - emphasizing that the "prisoners" were well treated and easily assimilated into the Indian Life.

.

25 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Jean E. Lewis
  • Jean E. Lewis
  • 24-04-2021

the reader sucks

Absolutely horrid pronunciation of place names and non-European personal names. Horribly distracting and completely unforgivable. Do your effing homework and learn proper pronunciation.

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  • Larry and Cindi
  • 07-03-2021

Good narration.

Narrator has given a dramatic rendition which I enjoyed very much, but listening convinces me that I would not be able to actually read the book.

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  • Brent Becker
  • 30-09-2020

Wait..What? Hold up, back up

I’ve been interested in Indigenous people and the relationship of Europeans during this time so I got this book and listened to it. The book itself was good overall. Very detailed. Narrator Paul Boehmer wasn’t good at all which made the book hard to listen to at times. There are a lot of names of men and tribes that sound so familiar with each other that when he says it (too fast and too much) that you get lost and have to go back and re-listen to it to be more confused at times.

Overall the book is very good and very detailed. I was hoping for more talking about the Old West Territory (Michigan for me) more but didn’t until the very end but that’s my fault for not picking the correct book.

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