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Books: Source Material

2 minute read

Few of the 1,400 biographies and works of history published each year in the U. S. reach big audiences. But most of them contribute at least one nugget of enlightenment with which a discriminating reader can enrich his knowledge of the past. Last month three new works, too specialized to be very popular, made absorbing reading for amateur historians:

McGillivray of the Creeks, by John Walter Caughey (University of Oklahoma Press, $3), tells of a Creek Indian chief of the post-Revolutionary War period who was known as the Talleyrand of Alabama for his skill in playing off Spanish-American antagonisms for Creek benefit. Son of a Scottish trader and a French-Indian woman, McGillivray owned slaves, suffered from venereal disease, died in his 303, preserved the Creek nation a full generation.

The Black Jacobins, by C. L. R. James (Dial Press, $3.75), is an impassioned account of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Santo Domingo revolution, written from the Marxist point of view by a young British Negro. It bristles with harrowing atrocities, fiery denunciations of imperialism, but manages to give a vivid account of a revolution which greatly influenced U. S. history before the Civil War.

Democracy in the Making, by Hugh Russell Fraser (Bobbs-Merrill, $3.50), is history written with journalistic liveliness. It pictures in swift chapters the fight of Jackson and Tyler against the United States Bank. Packed with savory local color, Democracy in the Making makes the Jackson-Tyler era seem closer at hand than the Harding administration. Typical nugget of unfamiliar information: In 1837, during the Canadian rebellion. Englishmen seized the U. S.-owned Caroline on Lake Erie, killed the crew, sent the ship over Niagara Falls.

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