When it comes to American history, there are countless books and resources available today that detail the events that led to the country’s formation. But have you ever wondered what the first American history book was? In this article, we will explore the origins of American historical literature and identify the very first book on this subject.
The Early Years of American History Writing
In the early years of America, most historical accounts were written by Europeans who had settled in the colonies. These works primarily focused on religious and political events and were written with a European perspective. However, as the colonies grew and established their own identities, there was a need for a distinct historical record that reflected their unique experience.
First Attempt: William Hubbard’s ‘The History of New England’
The first recorded attempt at creating an American history book was made by William Hubbard in 1680. Hubbard was a Puritan minister who had lived in Massachusetts since 1635. His book, titled ‘The History of New England’, covered the region’s early years from 1620 to 1677.
While Hubbard’s work is recognized as one of the earliest attempts at writing an American history book, it is not considered to be the first. This is because his focus was limited to just one region of America rather than covering a broader scope.
The First American History Book: ‘Magnalia Christi Americana’
The honor of being recognized as the first American history book goes to Cotton Mather’s ‘Magnalia Christi Americana’. Mather was a prominent Puritan minister who lived in Boston during colonial times. He published his book in 1702 and it quickly became popular among readers.
‘Magnalia Christi Americana’ covers a broad range of topics related to America’s early years including religious events, politics, and biographical information about influential figures such as John Winthrop and William Bradford. Mather’s work was also unique in that it was written from an American perspective rather than a European one.
The Impact of ‘Magnalia Christi Americana’
‘Magnalia Christi Americana’ had a significant impact on the development of American historical literature. It inspired other writers to document their own experiences and contributed to a growing sense of American identity and pride. Mather’s work also set a standard for future historians by emphasizing the importance of primary sources and accurate documentation.
While William Hubbard’s ‘The History of New England’ was an early attempt at creating an American history book, it was Cotton Mather’s ‘Magnalia Christi Americana’ that ultimately claimed the title as the first. This landmark work played a pivotal role in shaping America’s historical narrative and inspired generations of writers to follow in its footsteps.