What Else Was Happening in 1776?

The Dish

Reviewing Claudio Saunt’s West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, Eric Herschthal points out that, when asked about that momentous year, “few of us would think to mention the Russian fur trade with China in the Siberian town of Kyakhta; the founding of San Francisco; or the birth of the Lakota Nation in the Great Plains.” But, he says, these lesser-known developments bear “as much weight on the United States of today as what the Founders were doing in Philadelphia”:

Saunt contends that if it were not for Russia’s lucrative fur trade, the Spanish would have had little reason to colonize much of the West Coast and the Southwest. In the late eighteenth century, the Spanish became alarmed at the increasing Russian demand for sea otter and fox furs bought from natives on the Aleutian Islands, just off the coast of Alaska. To prevent their further expansion…

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