White Savage

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White Savage

by Fintan O’Toole | Faber & Faber

The spread of globalisation across the world continues to march to the beat of the American drum. But the USA’s position in world politics could have been very different. Here Irish historian Fintan O’Toole explores the creation of modern America in the first of a projected trilogy.

At the turn of the 18th century, a battle between the French and British for control of the eastern part of the North American continent was underway, part of the Seven Years War. Central to its outcome and – consequently – to the shape of the world today, were the alliances made by the Native American nations. Their knowledge of the terrain and their expendability as soldiers made them vital to clinching victory.

Expected to become a breakthrough bestseller for the historical genre

O’Toole tells the story of the war through the story of William Johnson, an Irish Catholic who converted to Protestantism and emigrated to America to become the country’s foremost fur trader. He married an Indian and adopted some of their practices, gaining enough respect among the native people to become chief negotiator for the British in the battle to win their allegiance.

White Savage is expected to become a breakthrough bestseller for the historical genre. But while the tale is a good one, the extensive use of quotes from period texts leave the book feeling stilted and less engaging than one might hope. Given that it lacks the colour and action of a novel, this book may leave the average reader frustrated. Perhaps it’s one for historians and academics.

First published: Traveller magazine, Sep-Oct 2005
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