Interweaving the stories of ordinary settlers and imperial decision-makers, Kukla depicts a world of revolutionary intrigue that transformed a small and precarious union into a world power--all without bloodshed and for about four cents an acre.Interweaving the stories of ordinary settlers and imperial decision-makers, Kukla depicts a world of revolutionary intrigue that transformed a small and precarious union into a world power--all without bloodshed and for about four cents an acre.Read Less
Publishers Weekly, 2003-02-24 Until a better one comes along, which is unlikely, this is now the book to read of the growing crop of works on the Louisiana Purchase in this bicentennial year. It differs from Charles Cerami's bracing Jefferson's Great Gamble (Forecasts, Jan. 27) by its deeper foundation of scholarly knowledge, from Roger Kennedy's overstriving Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause (Forecasts, Feb. 3) by being less idiosyncratic. Kukla (coauthor of Patrick Henry) offers up a splendid, beautifully written narrative focused tightly on the complex historic origins of the Purchase and on the diplomacy that pulled it off. Necessarily, his tale takes in the whole world, including the aspirations of Napoleon's failed forays into the Western Hemisphere and his resulting need for cash. But Kukla stays firmly on this side of the Atlantic. Jefferson takes center stage, but his Federalist opponents, whose sometimes disunionist machinations kept matters complex, are in the wings. Kukla's portraits of the principal diplomats-Robert Livingston and James Monroe on the American side; Talleyrand, Franois de Barbe-Marbois and Napoleon on the French-deftly illuminate the crucial mix of personality, circumstance and skill that made the United States a continental nation so early in its existence. Unlike many other historians, Kukla favors none of the story's characters but evenhandedly gives all their due. The book lacks only a grand theme to match its grand subject-what most contemporaries and all historians since have judged to be one of the most significant events in the nation's history. Nevertheless, this judicious, aptly illustrated work will gratify all its readers. Rarely does a work of history combine grace of writing with such broad authority. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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