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  • The Scratch of a Pen, 1763, and the Transformation of North America
  • Robert Englebert
Calloway, Colin G. —The Scratch of a Pen, 1763, and the Transformation of North America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Pp. 219.

For a book focused almost exclusively on the events of one year, 1763, Colin G. Calloway's latest work leaves the reader with an in-depth look at a far larger piece of North American colonial history. In fact, few books attempt so much by taking on so little. Calloway begins with the seemingly simple task of examining the events surrounding the peace of 1763. In doing so, he opens a methodological Pandora's box, tackling a myriad of contradictions surrounding the theme of [End Page 621] change. Stopping short of calling 1763 a complete fissure, he effectively navigates a sea of complexities, discussing the profound changes that resulted from the Treaty of Paris, while reminding us of the limits of change, bound by the intersecting lines of social continuity. After all, empires could be exchanged and the maps of North America redrawn with the scratch of a pen, but life on the ground was not nearly as quick to bend to the whims of imperial grand designs. As Calloway reminds us, "Family was more important than empire, prayer more important than political power, weather more important than world news" (p. 42).

Calloway's book begins by depicting the diversity of North America in 1763. Native peoples, British and French settlers, African and Creole slaves, and Spanish administrators are presented in an opening chapter that emphasizes inter-connectivity and mobility over isolation and a sedentary lifestyle. Calloway argues that North America was a world of villages and towns connected to both the back country and the Atlantic. This interconnection between both sides of the Appalachians is highlighted by Philadelphia, which, Calloway explains, owed its growth to its ability to look both East and West. Chapters 2 through 4 focus on the repercussions of the Treaty of Paris on the Native peoples of North America and, more specifically, of the Ohio Valley. This is perhaps the strongest section of the book. The author poignantly reminds the reader that, despite concessions of the French, the Native peoples were as yet undefeated. The contest for Native lands only increased as the peace brought British soldiers and settlers into more regular contact with Native peoples. Calloway effectively details how increased pressures along the Appalachian frontier and British policy changes regarding gift-giving led to the general degeneration of relations. Moreover, his treatment of Pontiac's War as the "First War of Independence" grants power and agency to the Native peoples, escaping the trap that has ensnared so many historians, in which knowledge of the final outcome camouflages the unknown. Calloway reminds us that nothing was certain in 1763, least of all European victory over a formidable enemy.

Chapters 5 through 7 focus on French North America after the fall of New France, including the maintenance of French social continuity in Canada and the Illinois Country, the political adjustments in Louisiana, and the dispersal and exile of the Acadians and Jesuits. Though these chapters deal with politics, religion, social norms, native relations, change, and continuity, Calloway manages to create a coherent narrative. In fact, one of the remarkable achievements of this book is its ability to weave together disparate primary and secondary sources to create a bridge between historiographies. As David Hackett Fischer so aptly describes in the editor's note, "It links the events and contingencies of political and diplomatic history to the processes and structures of social and cultural history" (p. xi). The author ostensibly seeks to reincorporate the narratives of neglected peoples into the grand narrative, and the primary beneficiaries of this interpretation are the Native peoples and the French inhabitants of North America.

If there is one major critique, it is that the contents sometimes fall short of the lofty ambitions set out in the introduction. For example, the salience of mobility [End Page 622] and social continuity on the ground is never fully delivered in chapter 5 on French North America. Both the introduction and the first page of chapter 5 create...


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