Never Come to Peace Again: Pontiac's Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America * David Dixon * Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005 * xviii, 354 pp. * $34.95
Indian and European Contact in Context: The Mid-Atlantic Region * Dennis B. Blanton and Julia A. King, editors * Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004 * x, 366 pp. * $65.00
David Dixon's Never Come to Peace Again: Pontiac's Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America and the collection of essays Indian and European Contact in Context edited by Dennis B. Blanton and Julia A. King offer fundamentally different approaches to the study of Indian-white relations. Dixon utilizes what might be viewed as traditional historical sources, in particular the letters and journals of British military officers and government officials, to examine the effect of Pontiac's Uprising. In contrast, the twelve disparate essays in Indian and European Contact in Context, written principally by archaeologists and anthropologists, rely on a wide range of source material, from pollen analysis to dendrochronology, from European maps to the wills of seventeenth-century Marylanders. Both offer very different perspectives of the interaction between Indian and what might be termed Euro-American culture. Dixon seeks to explain the effect of Pontiac's War on colonial society and to examine the ways in which the uprising led to the American Revolution. He argues that the repeated failure of the British government to protect frontier settlers, during first the French and Indian War and then Pontiac's War, drove many frontier settlers to take matters into their own hands. "Frustrated by their government's inability to contend with the Indians, back country settlers concluded that the best way to insure security was to rely on their own devices" (p. xii). Such actions eventually pushed them into direct conflict with the British government and ultimately proved one of the main forces leading to the Revolution.
Dixon traces the roots of Pontiac's War back to British attempts to acquire lands in the Ohio Valley in the 1740s and traces the growth of Indian discontent through the French and Indian War. He stresses that the British presence was initially tolerated because the British assured their Indian neighbors that the presence in the Ohio Valley would only last until the French were defeated. However, when the French were defeated, the British remained. As Gen. Jeffery Amherst restricted Indian trade goods, and as white pressure on Indian lands grew, so Indian discontent increased, coordinated and promoted by an Ottawa chief named Pontiac. Dixon then discusses the military progress of the uprising in some detail and stresses the extent of Indian successes. According to Dixon, Bouquet's victory at Bushy Run proved decisive and "must be considered a significant turning point in the war" (p. 197).
The greatest strength of Dixon's work is undoubtedly the great detail about British and Indian military activity. What is perhaps lacking is a more detailed Native American perspective. Although Dixon has a sound discussion of long-term Indian grievances, much of this is comparatively well-known material, and his discussion of immediate Indian motivations for attacking the British in 1763 is somewhat sketchy. Perhaps part of the reason for this is that Dixon argues that Pontiac himself was a central figure and it is he who emerges as the coordinator, if not originator, of a rebellion whose influence spread far beyond Detroit. Indeed, Dixon directly attacks those historians who have downplayed Pontiac's role in coordinating the rebellion, arguing that "in an effort to prove that the war was not a 'conspiracy' conceptualized and orchestrated by some Indian Svengali, these historians have denigrated Pontiac's overall influence. This interpretation, however, tends to …