An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795 by Robert Paulett (review)
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An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795. By Robert Paulett. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012. Pp. 264. $69.95 cloth; $24.95 paper)

Robert Paulett's work seamlessly integrates history and geography centered on the Anglo-Creek deerskin trade by analyzing maps produced in the eighteenth century. He also examines the inhabitants' activities at various locations—the Savannah River, the colonial town of Augusta, Indian paths, and traders' houses—in detail to demonstrate how British imperial administrators, colonial traders, the Creeks, and free and enslaved Africans competed to define social relations among them according to their own understanding of space.

British and American elites attempted to claim the space of the Southeast through deliberate and conscious processes of map-making to erase the Indian spatial arrangement based on the "point-to-point geography of the deerskin trades" (p. 21). As Paulett convincingly [End Page 443] demonstrates, maps drawn and travel journals written by Europeans in the early eighteenth century retained the key features of Indian geography, most notably the locations of Indian villages and the descriptions of travel on Indian trade paths. After the revolutionary era, however, the use of Indian geography gradually diminished along with the decline of deerskin trade and the invasion of American settlers onto Creek land, replaced with "rationalized" gridded maps and travel narratives using the longitude-latitude system.

The book incorporates a couple of innovative approaches to the study of historical geography in the Southeast. In chapter five, Paulett uses the concept of "store-breaking," such as breaking the locks off or kicking in the doors of traders' stores and houses, to show how seemingly inexplicable vandalism actually signified a means of protest by the Creek community against traders' unfair and unjust prices. He also argues that newspapers constitute a critical source in studying the changing perception of geography that scholars have overlooked, writing that, "Newspapers presented a new medium of geographic representation in the Southeast, one that had not been prominent in the debates over the trade geography" (p. 180).

The author, however, might have misidentified the causal link between European battle accounts appearing in Georgia newspapers with "border-related, anti-Indian sentiment in Georgia in the years just prior to the Revolution" (p. 182). These accounts of war had never been scarce during the Seven Years' War in colonial newspapers or in the correspondence of merchants engaged in trade networks of the Atlantic world. For instance, South Carolina newspapers frequently printed the battle accounts in Europe, North America, and the West Indies, but the existing fear of Indian attacks among the colonists did not intensify until the Anglo-Cherokee of War of 1760-61.

Throughout the book, Paulett encounters the usual challenges colonial historians have to deal with when investigating everyday interaction between colonists and Indians. "Despite the everyday interactions that took place," he acknowledges, "there is not yet evidence of what these exchanges were like, where they were conducted, [End Page 444] or what any of the participants thought of them" (p. 92). Daily interactions between colonists and free or enslaved Africans in the Southeast also present a problem because of their "invisibility" in the sources (p. 76). Despite these difficulties, the author accomplishes an admirable job of putting numerous sources together to ensure that the presence of Creeks and free and enslaved Africans remains visible throughout the book. At the beginning of the book, Paulett brilliantly juxtaposes contrasting images of the deerskin trade carried out by colonial traders and African peddlers on the Savannah River with James Oglethorpe's distant "imperial gaze" (p. 2).

An Empire of Small Places is a welcome addition to the ever-growing interest in the Southeast among early Americanists. Paulett has provided important insights in understanding how contested and competing geographies shaped the relations between colonists, Indians, and enslaved and free Africans throughout the eighteenth century.

Hyun Wu Lee

Hyun Wu Lee is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. His dissertation examines the interactions of British troops among colonists, Indians, and Africans in the Southeast during the Seven Years' War.

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