A Guide to the History of Illinois

By John Hoffmann | Go to book overview

1
THE ILLINOIS COUNTRY BEFORE 1765

MARGARET KIMBALL BROWN

THE "ILLINOIS COUNTRY"--that is, the land inhabited by the Illinois Indians--became known to Europeans through French and French Canadian efforts to trade with the Indians and to Christianize them. Illinois history is generally said to date from the Jolliet and Marquette expedition of 1673, the first to enter the Illinois Country. The French established trading posts and missions and developed several small villages, forming a distinctive French colonial society that lasted until British troops occupied the Illinois Country in 1765.

Although the French period of Illinois history has long been the subject of historical scholarship, the field clearly needs new and fresh attention. Indeed, the lack of substantial modern research in the period is a great gap in Illinois studies. Perhaps symbolic of the early but now dated scholarship in the field is the fact that the best introduction is still Clarence Walworth Alvord, The Illinois Country, 1673-1818 ( Springfield, 1920). Fortunately, the lack of a satisfactory modern synthesis of the period is to some extent overcome by more particular studies that concern, in turn, the Indians after contact with European civilization, the early explorers of the seventeenth century, and the colonial settlers of the eighteenth century.

The complex and often misunderstood history of the Indians in the Illinois Country is reliably surveyed in Bruce G. Trigger, ed., Northeast, Volume 15 of the Smithsonian Institution's Handbook of North American Indians ( WashingtonD.C.,

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