- Borderland Narratives: Negotiation and Accommodation in North America's Contested Spaces, 1500-1850 ed. by Andrew K. Frank and A. Glenn Crothers
Andrew K. Frank and A. Glenn Crothers have assembled an impressive volume that aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the past, present, and future of borderlands scholarship. The editors' introduction constructs a framework for the chapters that follow by providing an excellent synopsis of borderlands historiography. Ranging from Herbert E. Bolton's pioneering work of the 1920s to the contested meanings of the term borderlands in modern-day scholarship, the historiographical overview is a valuable resource for scholars and students in need of a comprehensive review of the field.
Each of the contributing authors seeks to take borderlands scholarship in new directions, whether geographically, chronologically, or thematically. As the editors observe, each author interprets the meaning of borderlands differently. Frank's chapter on Seminole ethnogenesis frames Florida as a political and ethnocultural borderland both shared and contested by Creek migrants, enslaved and refugee Africans, and American colonizers throughout the early 1800s. The author revises scholarly interpretations of the Second Seminole War, arguing that the war interrupted, but did not eliminate, an ongoing process of Seminole ethnogenesis that involved both African and Creek peoples. Also examining the Native South, Tyler Boulware focuses on the mechanism through which the creation of social and cultural borderlands occurred: the proliferation of horses. Boulware argues that the mobility offered by horses undermined efforts to set firm territorial boundaries and facilitated [End Page 139] cross-cultural connections among various Native and Euro-American populations. Meanwhile, Carla Gerona conceptualizes borderlands as "geographic zones marked and marred by disappearances" (p. 97). Complicating historical narratives about early Spanish entradas along the Gulf Coast and into modern-day Texas, Gerona argues that significant numbers of both Spaniards and Native people simply vanished as a result of the violence, death, and dislocation that these encounters produced.
Other authors in the volume define borderlands as areas that complicated social and legal boundaries, existing in tension with ideas about race and slavery in the antebellum United States. Rebekah M. K. Mergenthal argues that the Missouri Valley (specifically, the surprisingly permeable boundary between the state of Missouri and the federally designated Indian Territory) functioned as a borderland between slavery and freedom for people of African descent. Mergenthal shows that enslaved people labored in bondage to both white and Native masters in Shawnee territory, where slavery should not have existed according to federal law, and that refugees from slavery along the border often chose to flee to more distant Illinois and Iowa instead. Moving farther south, to antebellum St. Louis and its environs, Julie Winch finds a racial borderland where free people of color flouted legal restrictions that sought to limit their access to education, mobility, and property ownership and crossed racial boundaries as it suited them. Looking at the complicated case of the mixed-race Clamorgan family, Winch finds that the descendants of French trader Jacques Clamorgan and his multiple black concubines navigated complex webs of Spanish and American law in their attempts to defend claims to freedom, property, and various legal privileges.
The editors emphasize their inclusion of the Ohio Valley under the borderlands framework as particularly significant. Three of the volume's eight chapters focus on this region. Rob Harper's chapter analyzes Dunmore's War as an example of how borderlands environments created opportunities for building coalitions among diverse peoples. Harper frames modern-day Kentucky as a contested zone in the 1760s and 1770s, where a wide range of British colonists and Native peoples vied for control. Harper argues that through negotiations with rival speculators, land-hungry backcountry settlers, militia officers, and Delaware and Haudenosaunee chiefs, Virginia's last royal governor, Lord Dunmore, fleetingly but successfully asserted claims to a sizable chunk of the southern Ohio Valley. Philip N. Mulder and Michael Pasquier examine the Ohio Valley as both...