- Fresh Perspectives on British-Indian Relations in Early Carolina and Georgia:A Welcome Reassessment
The recognition of the importance of Native Americans in colonial British America has been increasing among scholars for the last several decades, especially in [End Page 117] the history of the American Southeast. From the 1990s to the present, a number of impressive studies on Indian peoples such as the Creek, the Cherokee, the Catawba, and others have added to our understanding of native life during the colonial era. More recently, many scholars have begun to combine the history of Europeans and Indians in an interconnected web of contact and change that demonstrates the natives' integral role in the shaping of the region's past and present. Contributing admirably to the progress of incorporating Indian voices with the history of early South Carolina and Georgia are William L. Ramsey's The Yamasee War and Julie Anne Sweet's Negotiating for Georgia. Each work effectively blends exhaustive research with effective organization and engaging prose to provide two worthy additions to the historiographical evolution of both colonies' pasts.
Ramsey's and Sweet's works represent merely the latest entries into a body of work that over the past two decades or so has enriched our knowledge and appreciation of the complexities and importance of the roles played by Native American cultures in the history of the colonial Southeast. Both books build on the foundations laid by the work of scholars of this region, starting with Verner Crane's seminal book The Southeastern Frontier (1928), which dealt largely with European interactions during the years before and after Queen Anne's War. In the 1970s Peter Wood's Black Majority (1974) espoused the critical role of African American slaves to our understanding of the early history of South Carolina. While these works commented on Indians as a part of their analysis, neither truly added to our knowledge of the roles of Indians in the story, concentrating as they did on Europeans and African Americans, respectively.
The importance of European-Indian interactions during this period and how those relationships affected South Carolina and Georgia in particular were never the central focus of many works until Alan Gallay broke important new ground on the importance of the Indian trade on South Carolina in his award-winning book The Indian Slave Trade (2002). This is not to say that impressive contributions to the historiography of Indians in the region, which acknowledge the central importance of English influences on particular tribes, were not being produced. James Merrell's book on the Catawba of South Carolina, The Indians' New World (1989), paved the way for many detailed and insightful investigations of various tribes in the region. In another case, Kathryn Braund produced a masterful work on Creek-Indian interactions during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in her Deerskins & Duffels (1993). Rather, the research published on tribes such as the Catawba, Creek, Cherokee, and others concentrated on European influences on Indians rather than on the Indian influence on the Europeans. William Ramsey and Julie Anne Sweet begin to address these missing perspectives and in doing so open a door for further research and future work.
In The Yamasee War, Ramsey argues simply that in considering the pivotal events and eras that shaped the course of the history of the Southeast and, more important, the roots of the "Old South," the Yamasee War was a major transformative event. This argument may, in and of itself, seem simplistic, but Ramsey is correct when he points out that the Yamasee War is a long-neglected event when it comes to tracing the roots of the antebellum South. Ramsey's main goal, larger even that his argument, is "to draw southern historical memory—so long mired in its obsession with the nineteenth century and the racial simplifications of the Civil War—farther...