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Contested Spaces of Early America

Edited by Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman

Publication Year: 2014

Colonial America stretched from Quebec to Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. Although European settlers laid claim to territories they called New Spain, New England, and New France, the reality of living in those spaces had little to do with European kingdoms. Instead, the New World's holdings took their form and shape from the Indian territories they inhabited. These contested spaces throughout the western hemisphere were not unclaimed lands waiting to be conquered and populated but a single vast space, occupied by native communities and defined by the meeting, mingling, and clashing of peoples, creating societies unlike any that the world had seen before.

Contested Spaces of Early America brings together some of the most distinguished historians in the field to view colonial America on the largest possible scale. Lavishly illustrated with maps, Native art, and color plates, the twelve chapters span the southern reaches of New Spain through Mexico and Navajo Country to the Dakotas and Upper Canada, and the early Indian civilizations to the ruins of the nineteenth-century West. At the heart of this volume is a search for a human geography of colonial relations: Contested Spaces of Early America aims to rid the historical landscape of imperial cores, frontier peripheries, and modern national borders to redefine the way scholars imagine colonial America.

Contributors: Matthew Babcock, Ned Blackhawk, Chantal Cramaussel, Brian DeLay, Elizabeth Fenn, Allan Greer, Pekka Hämäläinen, Raúl José Mandrini, Cynthia Radding, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Alan Taylor, and Samuel Truett.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Early American Studies


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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-xii

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Introduction. Maps and Spaces, Paths to Connect, and Lines to Divide

Juliana Barr, Edward Countryman

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pp. 1-28

‘‘In the last decades of the twentieth century,’’ argued David J. Weber, ‘‘American historians discovered America.’’ Scholars of New Spain, New France, and New England began to look toward other colonial regions for connections and comparisons. Ethnohistorians explored the commonalities and contrasts in histories of indigenous people from Peru to Greenland. We...

Part I. Spaces and Power

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Chapter 1. The Shapes of Power: Indians, Europeans, and North American Worlds from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century

Pekka Hämäläinen

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pp. 31-68

In 1948, Carl Bridenbaugh, the director of the Institute of Early American History, reported that his field was in crisis. The history of colonial America, he lamented, had been eclipsed by the attention-grabbing Revolutionary era, and nonspecialists thought that almost all of colonial history had already been written. Today, more than sixty years later, the field faces...

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Chapter 2. Dispossession in a Commercial Idiom: From Indian Deeds to Land Cession Treaties

Allan Greer

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pp. 69-92

When Juan de Oñate came in 1598 to annex New Mexico to Spain’s empire, he did not conclude treaties with the Pueblo peoples, nor did he ask them to surrender title to their lands; rather, he summoned them to acknowledge themselves as obedient subjects of King Philip II. On the king’s behalf, he laid claim to the entire country, New Mexico as well as unspecified adjacent...

Part II. Spaces and Landscapes

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Chapter 3. The Mandans: Ecology, Population, and Adaptation on the Northern Plains

Elizabeth Fenn

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pp. 95-114

In 1906–1907, a Mandan Indian man named Sitting Rabbit (also known as Little Owl) created a map illustrating more than six hundred years of his people’s spatial and spiritual history.1 In a segment-by-segment progression, Sitting Rabbit’s painting portrays the sweeping, three-hundred-mile arc of the Missouri River in what we now know as western North Dakota. The...

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Chapter 4. Colonial Spaces in the Fragmented Communities of Northern New Spain

Cynthia Radding

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pp. 115-141

The province of San Ildefonso de Ostimuri, nestled in the foothills and cordilleras of the Sierra Madre Occidental, first emerged in colonial documentation during the mid-seventeenth century. The history of settlement in Ostimuri, with its webs of migration, commerce, and points of exchange, illustrates the production of space and the different meanings ascribed to...

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Chapter 5. Transformations: The Rio de la Plata During the Bourbon Era

Raúl José Mandrini

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pp. 142-160

The year 1740 was a difficult one for Buenos Aires, a small town lost in the vastness of the southern plains of the Spanish domains in the Americas, and for the relatively small number of settlers living in the surrounding rural areas. That year, between October and November, the Indians had assaulted the districts (known as pagos) of Arrecifes, Luján, and...

Part III. Spaces and Resettlements

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Chapter 6. Blurred Borders: North America’s Forgotten Apache Reservations

Matthew Babcock

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pp. 163-183

On October 29, 1790, Lieutenant Ventura Montes’s Spanish patrol escorted Chief Volante’s group of Mescaleros off their protected reservation at Presidio del Norte (modern Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the river from Presidio, Texas) and onto the open and exposed southern Plains to hunt buffalo. Volante knew this territory well because Mescaleros had once controlled...

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Chapter 7. The Forced Transfer of Indians in Nueva Vizcaya and Sinaloa: A Hispanic Method of Colonization

Chantal Cramaussel

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pp. 184-207

In the last two decades a great deal of research has been done in Mexico on the history of northern New Spain.1 This flourishing period opened different perspectives from the ones generated by scholars of American borderlands studies, where missions, presidios, and mines as separate institutions dominated the historiography. New books published in Mexico gave birth...

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Chapter 8. Remaking Americans: Louisiana, Upper Canada, and Texas

Alan Taylor

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pp. 208-226

In the wake of the American Revolution, the new republic alarmed its imperial neighbors: the British to the north in Canada and the Spanish to the west in Louisiana. The imperial officials especially feared the great and growing number of Americans, who expanded their settlements with a remarkable rapidity. About 3.7 million in 1790, the American population...

Part IV. Spaces and Memory

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Chapter 9. Blood Talk: Violence and Belonging in the Navajo–New Mexican Borderland

Brian DeLay

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pp. 229-256

It’s a few hours before daylight, somewhere, and there’s a commotion outside. You bolt upright out of your blankets, heart pounding in the darkness. Men are yelling to each other in a language you don’t understand. A familiar voice cries out. You grab a weapon and stumble into the freezing night, just in time to see most of the animals being driven out of your corral. In...

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Chapter 10. Toward a New Literary History of the West: Etahdleuh Doanmoe’s Captivity Narrative

Birgit Brander Rasmussen

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pp. 257-275

On May 21, 1875, seventy-two young Cheyenne, Kiowa, Arapaho, Caddo, and Comanche men from the southern Plains arrived in St. Augustine, Florida. They were prisoners of war, exiled far away from their tribal homelands in order to prevent them from fighting the United States. Exhausted from a one-thousand-mile journey east via wagon, train...

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Chapter 11. Toward an Indigenous Art History of the West: The Segesser Hide Paintings

Ned Blackhawk

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pp. 276-299

Few have ever pronounced the history of the Americas to be, first and foremost, a history of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere. Certainly, the national histories of the nation-states of North and South America do not support such a contention, but the growing prominence of Native Americans within narratives of borderlands history invites such...

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Chapter 12. The Borderlands and Lost Worlds of Early America

Samuel Truett

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pp. 300-324

In traditional frontier histories, America stretched east to west across continental bones. Pioneers threaded high mountain passes, crossed prairies and deserts, facing the setting sun—paying scarce attention to the deeper America that had accumulated underfoot. Frontier mythologies suppressed these lost worlds. At best, they viewed their shattered remains as curiosities...


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pp. 325-408

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pp. 409-412

Matthew Babcock is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Texas at Dallas. Working with David Weber, he received his Ph.D. at Southern Methodist University. He is completing his book Relocation and Resilience: Apache Adaptation to Hispanic Rule as a Dornsife Fellow at the...


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pp. 413-426

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pp. 427-427

This volume is the latest in a series of collections sponsored by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University (SMU), always in collaboration with a similar institution elsewhere. In our case the collaborator has been the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. We are most grateful to the staffs at both...

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9780812209334
E-ISBN-10: 0812209338
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245844

Page Count: 480
Illustrations: 29 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Early American Studies
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Daniel K. Richter, Kathleen M. Brown, Max Cavitch, and David Waldstreicher See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 877363682
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Contested Spaces of Early America

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • America -- Historical geography.
  • Indians -- Land tenure.
  • America -- Colonization.
  • Borderlands -- America -- History.
  • America -- History -- To 1810.
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