Simon Winchester has a justifiably popular following on esoteric subject matter.
His latest book, The Men who United the States, is a play on the men who shaped the United States.
His research unearths nuggets starting from explorers Lewis and Clark’s seminal trek, the pioneers of road and rail and the polemics which provided the foresight and will which shaped America.
On the way, we meet charlatans, extravagant finds of minerals (some of which provided bogus), and such stories as how a French inventor of tar linked with Scot John Macadam who proved better roads would result in breaking great slabs of rock into small stones, glued by what is now known as ‘tarmac’.
Politics plays an integral part; we learn how Thomas Jefferson was repulsed by King George 111’s notion of a feudal system in the newly colonised land by saying all men should have equal right to ownership.
Winchester’s great gift is simplifying often difficult tracts, justifying his popular following.
So enamoured is the English-born author with the land of the free, that in recent years he has become a United States citizen.
Winchester writes of heady days, debunks myths popularised in 20th century media and does not shy from the privations of North American natives who were driven form their lands and their hunting grounds to allow the inexorable push for new settlement.
This compelling book fills many gaps of our current understanding of the USA, which since early settlement also became a technological behemoth, quickly establishing itself as a world power.
– Phil Campbell, QSM.
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