Empire of Fortune focuses on the so-called "French and Indian War"--the bitter last-ditch struggle between the British and the French empires in the New World. Challenging traditional historians, Francis Jennings reveals in absorbing detail the political and military realities behind the myths.
The final installment of Jennings' Covenant Chain trilogy (The Invasion of America; The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire), in which the author disputes the cozy concept of brave white settlers taming the North American wilderness in favor of the view of the settlers as civilizing thieves. This is history with a hefty serving of venom. Respected historians are not so much engaged in gentlemanly debate as flounced - the scholarly version of wrestling's atomic smash: Francis Parkman is not just wrong, "Parkman was a liar" who fabricated, misquoted, and used shoddy research to support "an ideology of divisiveness and hate based on racism, bigotry, misogyny, authoritarianism, chauvinism, and upperclass arrogance"; Charles and Mary Beard wrote "undeterred by factuality"; in Daniel Boorstin's pages, "bigotry and racism are very thinly veiled" and his research is "trivial." Focusing upon what he calls the "so-called" French and Indian War, Jennings himself writes in the extreme. To him, all settlers wear horns and all Indians wings. Among Jennings' villains: Thomas (son of William) Penn, who "wholly without scruple" discredited Pennsylvania's Assembly and Quaker leaders in order to line his own pockets; incompetent British generals who wasted their men's energies via corporal punishment and wrong-headed attacks; Europeans who sent smallpox-infested blankets as gifts to Indians; General Braddock with his unnerving arrogance; Wolfe, the conqueror of Quebec, whose orders resulted in the needless deaths of civilians. No one, not even young George Washington, survives Jennings' acid pen. He concludes, somewhat presumptuously, that "historians now generally accept that the European colonization was an invasion rather than a mere settlement." A thesis for revisionist-minded academics. (Kirkus Reviews)