Frank Mclynn

Tribes & Tribulations

Blood and Land: The Story of Native North America

By J C H King

Allen Lane 641pp £25 order from our bookshop

Mark Twain once wrote a famous essay on the ‘literary offenses’ of James Fenimore Cooper. Sadly, one is tempted to write in a similar vein about J C H King, whose big, ambitious book is chock-full of faults at different levels. He aims at a complete survey – historical, geographical, sociological, demographic, cultural – of the indigenous inhabitants of North America. King is now a Cambridge fellow, having worked as keeper of anthropology in the British Museum, so there can be no doubt of his commitment to his subject. But he has made little attempt to reach out to the general reader and, where he has, the results are disappointing. To use another analogy – Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity – one might say that King is vulnerable to seven different types of criticism. 

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