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Introduction andrew K. franK and a. Glenn Crothers “Borderlands” scholarship has exploded over the past two decades. Scholars have increasingly identified as specialists of the borderlands, and the term“borderlands” has become commonplace in scholarly titles, academic institutions,and the contemporary press.The modern political debate over immigration policy—a debate that has been largely defined by the status and movement of residents who live or once lived in an area commonly studied as the southwestern borderlands—insures that interest and perhaps controversy will continue to follow the field. Borderlands scholarship, though, has not merely proliferated. Its explosion has also resulted in the shattering of its definition. Where once it was solely a euphemism for the northern Spanish colonial frontier and its more modern locale, today it has become a metaphor for what Pekka Hämäläinen and Samuel Truett have called “ambiguous and often-unstable realms where boundaries are also crossroads, peripheries are also central places, homelands are also passing-through places, and the end points of empire are also forks in the road.”1 The two definitions—the first a geographic place and the second a process—continue to overlap and coexist uneasily. The following chapters explore a range of early American topics while also extending the concept—in both senses—to places not usually considered borderlands, such as the early Ohio River Valley. Positioning this region as comparable to other early North American crossroads and meeting places highlights how the mingling of people and cultures shaped the Ohio Valley’s history before 1850. Equally important, it helps illuminate scholars’ growing focus on the process of borderland formation across a 2 · Andrew K. Frank and A. Glenn Crothers variety of North American regions. Collectively, the essays in this volume reveal how the field is currently unfolding and urge scholars to abandon the geographic determinism of the first definition. The southwestern United States–Mexico border remains an ideal locale to employ the concept as a metaphor and as an intellectual tool, but this volume reveals the merits of employing borderlands to create more nuanced narratives of the intersection of people and ideas in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere in early North America. The history of borderlands hardly began as a metaphor. In 1921, Herbert E. Bolton introduced the now ubiquitous term to the academic landscape . Bolton’s The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest explored the Spanish colonial presence in a stretch of lands that became the United States that connected California with Florida and confidently proclaimed that in the borderlands“the imprint of Spain’s sway is still deep and clear.” Bolton’s slim treatise challenged Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis, an Anglo-centric perspective that largely excluded the Spanish and their territories from the American narrative. In defending the Spanish presence in the Americas from anti-Catholic and Black Legend sentiments, Bolton did more than overturn stereotypes about the Spanish past and offer a linguistic alternative to the frontier. He insisted that borderlands history was not the sole possession of Latin Americanists but rather an essential component of U.S. history and that the Spanish presence consisted of settlements, not merely explorers or conquistadors. Perhaps more important, he urged readers to conceptualize the borderlands as “the meeting place and fusing place of two streams of European civilization, one coming from the south, the other from the north.”2 Unlike Turner, who saw the frontier as a process that ultimately came to an end, Bolton defined borderlands as places characterized by a historical process. Although Bolton inspired a group of students to follow his lead, American historians remained fixated by Turner’s frontier thesis for decades. Seventy years after Turner presented the frontier thesis, in 1893, a survey of almost three hundred historians proclaimed that Turner’s ideas were “still dominant” in the profession.3 Turner’s frontier—“the meeting point between savagery and civilization” and a process that created a unique “American character”—shaped the contours of American history. The Spanish colonies and territories remained the intellectual domain of Latin Introduction · 3 Americanists, and the “Greater America” and hemispheric approach that Bolton advocated remained in the shadows of the Turnerian frontier. Despite Bolton’s production—he wrote or cowrote nearly two dozen books and over 70 articles and directed 103 Ph.D. dissertations and 323 master’s theses—the historical profession continued to focus on the thirteen colonies and their expansion west. John W. Caughey, one of Bolton’s many students...


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