The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Feb. 2012


 From an acclaimed Pulitzer Prize finalist, a sweeping history of the largely forgotten time when the Eastern Seaboard marked the tense frontier between great colonial empires and countless Native tribes.

    Once, the East was frontier - the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans. How they adopted and adapted the ways and manners of the other, while contesting for control of what all considered to be their land, shaped societies on both sides in profound ways that still reverberate today.

The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America traces two
 and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded stories - like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century warfare; a mixed-blood interpreter on the Pennsylvania frontier trying to straddle his white and Native heritage; Indian slave-hunters who turned on their colonial partners when they themselves feared enslavement; and a Puritan woman whose bloody acts with a scalping knife remain deeply divisive even today.

  The First Frontier is the first book in years to tell the far-reaching history of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling informed by the latest research to bring to life the tumultuous, uncertain times that were an inherent part of creating a new society.


  • Listen to interviews with Scott Weidensaul from:

    Radio Times (WHYY-FM, Philadelphia)

    Radio Smart Talk (WITF-FM, Harrisburg, PA)

    Entertainment and Culture (WCHE, West Chester, PA)


    From The Wall Street Journal

      "With a novelist's flair, he conveys the experiences of ordinary people pitted against powerful and unpredictable nature...Mr. Weidensaul invites readers to imagine the bloody ground beneath modern America's apparently tame landscape."


     From The Seattle Times:

      "Exhaustively researched and entertainingly written...Credit Weidensaul with proving once again that history does not have to be dull in order to be comprehensive. It would be difficult to find a work of either fact or fiction more filled with excitement and suspense than The First Frontier."


    From Library Journal

      "Beautifully written ... highly recommended."


    From Publisher's Weekly:

      A "charming and fascinating chronicle...Weidensaul's delightful storytelling brings to life the terrors and hopes of the earliest days of America."


    From Kirkus Reviews

      "Creating a new civilization is a bloody, destructive and morally withering business; for proof, one need look no further than frontier American life. In this comprehensive chronicle, Weidensaul sheds light on the shadowy world of pre-Revolutionary America...Weidensaul weaves together an impressive number of true stories, bolstered by first- and second-hand records and journals...any reader who picks it up will get a very real picture of what it was like to live and die in the New World."


  • First Frontier Table of Contents

  • First Frontier Excerpt