Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial North America

By James Axtell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The First Consumer Revolution

IN THE PAST TWENTY YEARS, ONE OF MY SCHOLARLY GOALS has been to demonstrate that Indian history cannot be separated without violence or chicanery from the history of EuropeanAmericans, either in broad outline or in many cultural specifics. I have sought to remind students and readers that acculturation is always and everywhere a two-way street, that all the inhabitants of North America's cultural frontiers were affected and changed by each other, without exception. The sea-changes and revolutions that rocked one group were always felt in some degree by the others.*

When I was invited to participate in the lecture series "The Chippendale Wigwam: European and Oriental Styles Invade America" at Mary Washington College in March 1990, my first impulse was to turn tail and run. What could I, an ethnohistorian, possibly have to say to a decorative-artsy audience in preservation-minded Fredericksburg, Virginia? When the other five speakers were slated to discuss various colonial adaptations in style, how could I bring the Indians into the European stylistic orbit without fabricating evidence, succumbing to ethnocentrism, or lowering the tone?

____________________
*
James Axtell, The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America ( New York, 1981), esp. chs. 9-10.

-125-

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