The Magazine

Northern Exposure

The long, bloody road to U.S.-Canadian amity.

Feb 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 22 • By JOEL SCHWARTZ
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In closing, I should say a word about one of Cohen’s sources. He reports at the outset that he first began to be interested in the Great Warpath as a schoolboy, when he read Francis Parkman’s classic account of the battles between France and Britain in North America. (Not surprisingly, some of these battles are discussed in the first half of Cohen’s book.) In lieu of a bibliography, Cohen concludes with a guide to sources that readers might consult to expand their knowledge of the Great Warpath. Prominent among those sources is Parkman’s history, which chronicles “the climactic struggle for North America between the two European great powers with rare literary skill. Parkman was intoxicated with the landscape of the Great Warpath, which he visited repeatedly and described with care.”

Cohen offers a measured judgment of Francis Parkman (1823-1893) and his massive historical output:

Parkman is much despised today by some historians who find him bigoted, reactionary, and too literary. He was, to some extent, all these things, although a more charitable reading suggests that he had a dark view of most human beings, including the elite of the Boston of his day. And no matter what one thinks of his interpretations, his literary skill remains a marvel—which is why he, unlike many of his late-twentieth-century critics, remains in print.

That is very well said. Conquered into Liberty deserves a wide readership that should certainly include anyone interested in American history or military history. If some of Cohen’s readers are induced by him to read Parkman (author of what I suspect is the least-read American great book), that would be an added bonus. He will have served these readers well, and they in turn will be well served by Francis Parkman.

Joel Schwartz is an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.