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Journal of World History 11.1 (2000) 129-131



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Book Review

New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America


New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. By Colin G. Calloway. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Pp. xxi + 229. $24.95 (cloth); $14.95 (paper).

Colin G. Calloway, professor of history and Native American studies at Dartmouth College, prefaces New Worlds for All by stating, "This book is not a history of American Indians, though it involves Indian peoples and their experiences. Nor is it a narrative of Indian-White relations. It is a collection of essays, perhaps more accurately a series [End Page 129] of impressions, that together suggest how things could not have been the way they were without the interaction of Indians and European peoples in America." Thus he follows in the footsteps of, and readily acknowledges an intellectual debt to, James Axtell's preeminent work in this area. Admittedly, my initial response was, why another work on this topic? However, Calloway has boldly undertaken a more sweeping synthesis of Indian-European interaction than heretofore attempted. His essential thesis--that Native American culture was not overcome by that of Europeans, but rather that the two melded to create a new synthesis--is compelling.

When Columbus completed a successful voyage of discovery in 1492, he had not opened up a "New World" for Europeans; his voyage actually had connected two worlds of equal maturity. Native peoples numbering in the millions, with diverse languages, cultures, and religions, had occupied the Americas for millennia. It was an opportunity for natives and newcomers to learn from each other. But Europeans were not interested in maximizing cultural contact; they sought land and new economic opportunity, which came primarily at the expense of the natives. They readily borrowed much of the Indians' material culture but eschewed their social and political systems. The Puritans who came to New England in the 1620s found a land virtually bereft of natives, the result of successful pandemics before their arrival. Thus there was limited conflict for almost half a century, until English settlers began to encroach on interior tribes. A similar pattern of peaceful trade followed by land seizure and warfare prevailed in the Chesapeake and southern colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Throughout this prolonged contact both European colonists and Indian tribes underwent a cultural transformation. Tribal peoples ravaged by diseases and hard pressed by land-hungry settlers had to find new ways of surviving in what James Merrell has called "the Indians' New World." A new amalgam grew out of this interaction. Originally the term American was applied to Indian inhabitants of the country, but by the time of the American Revolution it had become a general descriptor for those colonists seeking a separate identity from England.

English settlers were not the only Europeans who interacted with the Indian tribes of colonial North America. In the southwest, a Spanish entrada in the late sixteenth century introduced three factors that would transform native culture over time: new technology, Christianity, and the horse. Since this was the region of greatest intermarriage between Europeans and Indians, the Spaniards created new categories such as mestizo to identify and classify the new people they encountered or helped to create. In Canada there was also intense intermarriage between French and Indian, but on a much smaller scale because of the [End Page 130] smaller European population of New France. The French fur traders lived much of their lives among the Indians and created whole communities of mixed cultural ancestry known as m├ętis. They, too, developed a distinct culture that was neither entirely European nor Indian.

Only occasionally does Calloway overreach in his generalizations; most often he errs on the side of brevity. For example, when discussing the collapse of Spanish missions in Florida and the demise of aboriginal Indian populations, he notes that "British and Indian raids from the north at the beginning of the eighteenth century effectively brought the mission system to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8050
Print ISSN
1045-6007
Pages
pp. 129-131
Launched on MUSE
2000-03-01
Open Access
No
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