Monday, June 28, 2010

What I’m Reading

I haven’t blogged about what I’ve been reading lately because I’ve been lost in French Colonial History,

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particularly the history of the French in the Ohio River Valley, and I doubt anyone is much interested in that.  That’s a picture of '”the pile” I’m working on.  The only one I’ve finished is Elusive Empires by Erik Hinderaker which came out in 1997 but I hadn’t yet read. Starting with the culture of the Mississippian Indians (the mound builders) he works his way through the refugees from the Iroquois wars, the French entering the Illinois Country and the Ohio Valley through Detroit and the English entering through Pennsylvania and Virginia.  It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but it was an excellent overview of the history and put much in a timeline perspective.  Although it seemed to lean more heavily on the “American” side of the history than on the French, it was much more balanced than many other histories. 

The others I’m reading more or less simultaneously as the spirit moves me.  The New Peoples edited by Jacqueline Peterson isn’t really about the Ohio Valley.  These appear to be papers written by participants at the first international Conference on the Metis in North America, hosted by the Newberry Library in Chicago.  But since some of the peoples of the Ohio Valley (especially on the French side) were metis, I thought it fit into the bunch.  Metis means “mixed” and literally the metis people were children of europeans and native americans. 

Chasing Empire Across the Sea, by Kenneth J. Banks is about communications in the 18th Century between France and her American colonies, including the French Caribbean.  Communication between France and Canada was limited by the freezing of the St. Lawrence River each winter.  Communication between France and the West Indies was relatively simple.  Surprisingly, communication with Louisiana was the slowest because it was the longest distance and the journey up the Mississippi to New Orleans was treacherous.  This book is full of a wealth of information that I’m slowly digesting. 

The Ohio Valley in Colonial Days by Berthold Fernow is a reprint of a book published in 1890 and written by the custodian of the State Archives of New York.  I haven’t started it yet but I never discount books because they are old, especially when they are written by someone who has access to an archive. The language is sometimes florid but there is often good information to be had.

Finally, there is The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman, published in 2006.  I’ve read much about that portion of the great world war known in Europe as the Seven Years War. But I never get enough. 

As far as fiction goes, despite my desire to start a new mystery series I’ve been catching up on old friends.  I just read This Body of Death by Elizabeth George and all I have to say is … Tommy, Tommy, Tommy.   Alcoholics are not people you want to mess around with.   I also read The Judgment of Caesar and am now reading The Triumph of Caesar, both by Steven Saylor and featuring Gordianus the Finder.   Don’t know how I fell behind by two books on that series.  Probably because my local library is always late on getting the next one.   I know my Roman History enough to know that Caesar comes to a bad end.  Beware the Ides … and all that.

And I’m still working on Eliza Fay’s Letters from India.   She’s finally reached India after many, many adventures.  In some ways it’s hard to remember that this isn’t a novel.