I read a lot of the criticism about this book when it came out. That it was another white-washing of history and I must admit that I considered that perhaps the outrage was directed more at the idea of the book than the book itself. McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner after all. Perhaps, I thought, he would discuss the ideas in an objective way that did not avoid the inherent issues with the idea of the pioneers moving west. I am very interested in what happened to the pioneers as the moved west but I also want to know how that affected the people who already lived there. That interests me and that is not this book. I think that the subtitle should have been an indication.
This book is basically just about people from New England settling in what become Ohio and building communities there. I learned a fair amount, about the Northwest Treaty of 1785 that forbid slavery in the territory. I knew nothing of the, let’s call them pioneers, who first settled outside the thirteen original colonies. I say settle because they sure as hell didn’t discover it as there were scores of tribes who already lived there. I wish the book focused on that aspect but McCullough often just mentions “indian attacks” and doesn’t specify the the tribe which I found off-putting. I grew up learning and re-teaching my parents that “indian” was not he correct term and that Native American was more appropriate. Perhaps that has changed since I was in school but I am not aware if it has. I think that this book reads like is was written by an 80-year old white historian who just uses the language that he knows. I’d pass on this one if I were you.