Valley of Opportunity: Economic Culture along the Upper Susquehanna, 1700-1800

Synopsis

Valley of Opportunity recreates an age when Indians, colonists, and post-Revolutionary settlers embraced a similar dream: to create a successful economy in the rural hinterland of the middle colonies. Peter C. Mancall draws on abundant evidence from seldom-used archives in the region, as well as from libraries on both sides of the Atlantic, to reconstruct their daily economic life.

The author describes the varied economic transformations that took place in the area, considering these changes from an environmental as well as an economic standpoint. He shows how different groups of people perceived the resources of the region and how their perceptions shaped settlement patterns, land use, and the formation of commercial networks. Ultimately, each of the three peoples looked beyond the mountains that set the boundaries of their physical world and tried to establish ties to the larger commercial network that linked North America to Europe.

Mancall offers connections between the development of a particular region, previously overlooked by most historians, and the wide pattern of American economic change. He breaks through old ethnocentric barriers of settlement history by portraying Indian people in their full diversity and by including Indians and whites as actors of comparable significance, and he shows how attitudes that developed in the colonial period affected economic patterns well beyond the Revolution. Integrating a range of disciplines, from anthropology through ecology and geography to zoology, he seeks to answer the questions: what did different groups of people make of the natural resources of this river valley and how did they allocate the rewards? His answers provide a novel overview of the economic culture of the eighteenth century.

Studded with sharp insights and attention-catching quotations that mirror everyday life of the times, Valley of Opportunity will appeal to those interested in the development of the American economy, the impact of the Revolution on urban Americans, and the relations between the peoples who together created a vibrant world along the edges of European settlement in North America.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Ithaca, NY
Publication year:
  • 1991