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Louisiana Purchase and Lewis & Clark Books

Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History (1985)

Mintz's fascinating historical and anthropological study traces the journey of sugar from a rare and valuable luxury spice to an indispensable everyday consumer product. Mintz ably tells the remarkable story of how sweetness, and our desire to taste it, has profoundly shaped the world we live in.

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)

Trinidadian C.L.R. James was perhaps the best scholar to emerge from the Caribbean in the 20th Century, and this classic history of the Haitian Revolution remains indispensable nearly seventy years after its first publication. James's lively writing and incisive Marxian analysis make sense of the dizzying series of twists and turns that roiled Saint-Domingue between 1791 and 1804. Anyone interested in learning more about one of the most astounding events in human history should start here.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995)

If the Haitian Revolution was indeed one of the most astounding events in human history, how come so many of us know so little about it? Haitian scholar Michel-Rolph Trouillot explores the question of why some past events are enshrined in our historical narratives, while others—like the Haitian Revolution—are largely forgotten ("silenced"). Engages deeply with postmodernist theory without ever becoming unreadable; that alone makes this slim volume very much worth exploring.

Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (1996)

Ambrose, one of America's most popular narrative historians, tells the story of Lewis and Clark's expedition to the Pacific in all its glorious detail.

Roger G. Kennedy, Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase (2003)

Kennedy's book is a bit of a mess in terms of organization, but is still worthwhile for its deep exploration of the tragedy inherent in Thomas Jefferson, who dreamed of an expansive yeoman's republic but paved the way for the expansion of slaveocracy.

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