- Contested Spaces of Early America ed. by Juliana Barr, Edward Countryman
This collection of essays, written by top-notch scholars of the colonial Americas from Quebec to Argentina, is dedicated to the memory and work of David J. Weber, the late director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University (SMU). In fact, many of the essayists included here were either Clements Center Fellows—as was one of the editors, Juliana Barr—or are tied to SMU as a student or professor—as is the other editor, Edward Countryman. In the introductory essay, the editors explain that their main goal is to “overcome the attempted erasure of indigenous populations” from the Americas by Euro-American cartographers, as well as historians, prior to the last decades of the twentieth century (5). Therefore, the book is organized around the central theme of contested spaces, areas throughout the hemisphere where Native Americans and Euro-Americans met to create distinct colonial societies “that took their form and shape from the Indian spaces they inhabited (and often shared with them)” (23). The result is twelve thought-provoking essays that discuss contested spaces, power, landscapes, resettlements, and memory, providing readers with an overview of the latest trends in colonial historiography.
The first essay, by Pekka Hämäläinen, focuses on power in colonial North America, “at a time when the continent was contested by many and controlled by none” (33), stressing the point that indigenous agency, particularly in the interior, shaped the creation and meaning of colonial America. Allan Greer follows with a hemispheric examination of the differing ways the various colonial powers dealt with Native American land, demonstrating that the French, Spanish, and Portuguese sought to incorporate indigenous peoples into their colonial polity while the English wished to dispossess the Indians of their lands in order to open them to British settlement. Elizabeth Fenn, Cynthia Radding, and Raúl José Mandrini contribute essays that examine the landscapes of indigenous peoples of the Upper Missouri River, Northern Mexico, and the Argentine Pampas, and the various ways the Indians responded to the arrival of Euro-Americans, as well as to the goods and pathogens that the invaders [End Page 79] brought with them. Matthew Babcock’s fine essay discusses the complicated relationships between Apaches, Comanches, and Spaniards in the American Southwest in the late eighteenth century, while Chantal Cramaussel demonstrates how Spanish colonizers in northern New Spain forcibly transferred Indians to Nueva Vizcaya and Sinaloa to provide labor for mines.
Whereas the previous essays focused on the relations between Native Americans and Euro-Americans, Alan Taylor contrasts the experiences of Anglo Americans moving from the United States to British Upper Canada, Spanish Louisiana, and Mexican Texas during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The final four essays, by Brian DeLay, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Ned Blackhawk, and Samuel Truett, employ captivity narratives and buffalo hide paintings, among other things, to discuss spaces and memory from Arizona to Florida. In short, the editors have successfully put together a collection that does service to Weber’s lifework of trying to “link together the historic Americas and to see beyond borderlands, borders, and territorial crossings to imagine that history as a hemispheric project” (1–2).