Review: Colonial Forts of the Champlain and Hudson Valleys, Michael G. Laramie

It is rare for me to a find a book that is what it promises to be. “Colonial Forts” did this, and though the structure of the work has some potential problems, I think this title overall is perfect perfect when it comes to finding a book on fortifications from a specific time period in a given area.

Always, when looking into this subject, the reader must ask “why” something was fortified. This could lead, either knowingly or unknowingly, into a political history of the period, and can sometimes bog down the title. This aspect was approached herein quickly and painlessly — as the conflicts between Great Britain and France rage on, Mr Laramie manages to introduce the most relevant (new) campaign of the period to then make full use of it in the description of the location. There naturally is a little bit of overlap: when “expansion” takes one fort and the frontier pushes out into the next, it can be difficult to judge how much context to use in one introduction vs the other one, but it works very well overall.

Further, the book is geographically contained unlike some other overviews of forts: the area is geographic (Champlain and Hudson Valleys) instead of political (New York) which gives it a little bit of a smaller range than one could try for, but actually as the rest of the state has a different logic to it, it makes sense to tie the river valleys together in their development. Sometimes, the author also jumps further away from the area for a paragraph or two to describe expansion and setbacks in those parts, but generally the reader is pretty well contained in the area the author promises to focus on.

If I really had to pick a limitation, I would say that the use of maps and diagrams is limited to reproductions of old works — no new content is publicised. Yet, this matches what many other more famous authors do and, indeed, the modus operandi of some publishing houses, so it’s not really a big draw-back.

Overall, I really liked the book and would recommend it to people interested in the subject!

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