*American Republics*

That is the new Alan Taylor book and the subtitle is A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850.  Excerpt:

With 124,000 inhabitants in 1813, Mexico City was twenty times bigger than Washington, D.C. — and about forty times grander.  Poinsett described the public buildings and churches as “vast and splendid,” providing “an air of grandeur…wanting in the cities of the United States.”  A German intellectual, Alexander von Humboldt, thought the city’s statues and Baroque palaces “would appear to advantage in the finest streets of Paris, Berlin and [St.] Petersburg.”

…Mexico City had an array of cultural institutions created during the colonial era.  “No city of the new continent, without even excepting those of the United States, can display such great and solid scientific establishments as the capital of Mexico,” marveled Humboldt.  The United States had nothing to match Mexico’s Academy of Fine Arts, National Botanic Garden, National University, and School of Mines.  Founded in 1551, the university was the oldest in the Americas.

The book is excellent, including on Mormons, and also the War of 1812, and it will be one of the best books of this year.  It is time to admit that Taylor is not only one of the best historians, but he is one of the best writers period in any field.  Recommended.

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