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New Worlds of Violence

Cultures and Conquests in the Early American Southeast

Matthew Jennings

Publication Year: 2011

From the early 1500s to the mid-1700s, the American Southeast was the scene of continuous tumult as European powers vied for dominance in the region while waging war on Native American communities. Yet even before Hernando de Soto landed his expeditionary force on the Gulf shores of Florida, Native Americans had created their own “cultures of violence”: sets of ideas about when it was appropriate to use violence and what sorts of violence were appropriate to a given situation. In New Worlds of Violence, Matthew Jennings offers a persuasive new framework for understanding the European–Native American contact period and the conflicts among indigenous peoples that preceded it. This pioneering approach posits that every group present in the Southeast had its own ideas about the use of violence and that these ideas changed over time as they collided with one another. The book starts with the Mississippian era and continues through the successive Spanish and English invasions of the Native South. Jennings argues that the English conquered the Southeast because they were able to force everyone else to adapt to their culture of violence, which, of course, changed over time as well. By 1740, a peculiarly Anglo-American culture of violence was in place that would profoundly influence the expansion of England’s colonies and the eventual southern United States. While Native and African violence were present in this world, they moved in circles defined by the English. New Worlds of Violence concludes by pointing out that long-lasting violence bears long-lasting consequences. An important contribution to the growing body of work on the early Southeast, this book will significantly broaden readers’ understanding of America’s violent past.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book attempts to puncture some timeworn myths: among them that Native American history before the advent of Europeans was simply a prelude and that the English engaged in a relatively benign process of “settlement,” and not the harsher conquest carried out by the Spanish. Another myth is that of the lone scholar, a heroic, or weird, figure who spends days ...

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Introduction: Cultures of Violence

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pp. xv-xxxiv

Violence in the colonial Southeast could be generative as well as destructive, and stories people told about violence mattered. William Bartram’s peregrinations through the Southeast were, from his point of view, a rather depressing journey. His travels can be read as a meditation on the futility of trying to tame lands that will eventually revert to their wild, ...

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1. Violence in the Mississippian World

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pp. 1-28

The history of violence in the Southeast does not begin with the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Europeans flattered themselves when they believed they had come across a primitive world inhabited by innately inferior non-Christians, ripe for conquest and exploitation. Equally flawed was the notion that native peoples inhabited an earthly paradise devoid of ...

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2. Spanish and Mississippian Violence

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pp. 29-56

The Mississippians and Spanish who squared off against one another in the sixteenth-century Southeast inherited long-developing and distinct cultures of violence. Some Mississippian elites used violence to legitimize their power over commoners, and many Mississippian communities went to war to acquire prestige goods, for religious reasons, and to accumulate ...

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3. The Fight for Florida

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pp. 57-80

The American Southeast existed “beyond the line” that divided Europe from the rest of the world in the mind of many European theorists. In this area, rules governing violence, which had just begun to exercise some influence in Europe in the sixteenth century, did not apply. Piracy, smuggling, and violent conflict, even between nations which were at peace in Europe, ...

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4. Violence after the Entrada

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pp. 81-96

The question of how much influence Mississippian world views had on later native communities is not without some contention. In a 2004 New York Times review of an exhibit at Chicago’s Art Institute, critic Edward Rothstein accused the Art Institute of pandering by asserting a connection between the art of America’s ancient peoples and modern native nations. Though ...

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5. Creating English Conquest

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pp. 97-118

Wingina, who had recently taken the name Pemisapan, leader of a small Algonquian community in present-day North Carolina, had reason to fear for his life in the spring of 1586. He had been confronted by a band of outsiders whose demands were becoming increasingly outrageous. Wingina’s people had already cleared fields and planted crops for their overbearing ...

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6. Violence and the Founding of English Carolina

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pp. 119-136

The English who came into the Southeast were the heirs of the culture of violence described in the previous chapter. When they first arrived in the Southeast in numbers, in the second half of the seventeenth century, they came to a land that was already scarred by violence. The peoples of the coast, living in small communities that had been reshaped by disease and ...

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7. Violence in the Era of the Yamasee War

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pp. 137-156

On April 15, 1715, Thomas Nairne, one of South Carolina’s leading Indian traders, was put to death at Pocotaligo, the principal Yamasee town. Nairne was one of nearly one hundred white traders killed at the outset of what later historians would call the Yamasee War, but Nairne’s death has made headlines in the centuries since because it was public spectacle. According ...

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8. American Nations, American Violence

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pp. 157-178

Just a few years ago, finding the exact site of the Stono Rebellion was not all that easy. To be honest, it was impossible, at least for an eager college student stealing half an hour from an all-too-rare family vacation, armed only with the hope that a highway map would be enough and the naïve conviction that something so important could not possibly go without a historical ...


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pp. 179-234


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pp. 235-264


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pp. 265-270

E-ISBN-13: 9781572337992
E-ISBN-10: 1572337990
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572337565
Print-ISBN-10: 1572337567

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 10 halfones, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2011