The 10 Best Books About Early Colonial History

Experiences in colonial America varied widely.

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In 1607, Jamestown was founded by the Virginia Company. In 1620, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The books collected here detail the history of these and other early English colonists in America. Many of the titles also explore the experiences and contributions of Indigenous peoples and women in colonial life. Told conventionally, through the eyes of historians, or creatively, through character studies of colonial figures, the stories are compelling examples of how history can be viewed and enjoyed from an infinite number of perspectives.

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A New World: An Epic of Colonial America by Arthur Quinn

An Epic of Colonial America

If you want a different sort of history book, read this volume by Arthur Quinn. He tells the tale of Colonial America by focusing on 12 central characters from different settlements, including well-known figures such as John Smith, John Winthrop, and William Bradford. 

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Indian New England 1524–1674: A Compendium of Eyewitness Accounts of Native American Life

Read the modernized accounts of the first contacts between the English and Indigenous peoples in New England. Editor Ronald Dale Karr has gathered over 20 sources to take a historical look at Indigenous tribes during these formative years.

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Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton

This book takes a look the first English colonists who came to America, ranging from Cabot to the founding of Jamestown. This readable and interesting volume by Giles Milton is an entertaining tour of history based on sound scholarship.

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Plymouth Colony: Its History & People, 1620–1691 by Eugene Aubrey Stratton

Take an in-depth look at Plymouth Colony with this excellent resource from Eugene Aubrey Stratton. Included are over 300 biographical sketches of the colony's inhabitants as well as detailed maps and photographs of the Plymouth Colony and surrounding areas. 

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Home Life in Colonial Days by Alice Morse Earle

This excellent description of colonial life provides great detail along with numerous illustrations that help bring this era of American history to life. Surrounded by land that was bursting with natural resources, the first colonists had few or no tools for turning the materials into shelter. Learn about where they lived and how they adapted to their new environment.

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New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians, 1620–1675 by Alden T. Vaughn

First written in 1965, this revealing account of European and Indigenous relations is very evenhanded. Alden T. Vaughn argues that the Puritans were not hostile toward Indigenous tribes at first, claiming that relations did not deteriorate until 1675.

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First Generations: Women in Colonial America by Carol Berkin

This excellent women's history book portrays colonial American women from all segments of society. Carol Berkin tells the stories of women through various essays, providing interesting reading and insights into colonial life.

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New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America by Colin Calloway

This book examines Indigenous contributions to Colonial America. Colin Calloway takes a balanced look at the relations between the colonists and Indigenous peoples through a series of essays. The stories describe the symbiotic, complex, and often difficult relationships between the Europeans and the Indigenous tribes who already called the land their home. 

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Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon

Want a different perspective on Colonial America? William Cronon examines impact of the colonists on the New World from an ecological point of view. This exceptional book moves beyond the "normal" realm of historiography, providing an original look at this era.

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Asylum for Mankind: America 1607–1800 by Marilyn C. Baseler

Marilyn C. Baseler examines the immigration patterns from Europe to the New World. We cannot study Colonial life without studying the backgrounds of the settlers themselves. This book is an important reminder of the colonists' experiences both before and after the crossing.

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Kelly, Martin. "The 10 Best Books About Early Colonial History." ThoughtCo, Aug. 31, 2022, Kelly, Martin. (2022, August 31). The 10 Best Books About Early Colonial History. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "The 10 Best Books About Early Colonial History." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).