Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World

Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World

Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World

Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World

Synopsis

The early modern period (c. 1500–1800) of world history is characterized by the establishment and aggressive expansion of European empires, and warfare between imperial powers and indigenous peoples was a central component of the quest for global dominance. From the Portuguese in Africa to the Russians and Ottomans in Central Asia, empire builders could not avoid military interactions with native populations, and many discovered that imperial expansion was impossible without the cooperation, and, in some cases, alliances with the natives they encountered in the new worlds they sought to rule.

Empires and Indigenes is a sweeping examination of how intercultural interactions between Europeans and indigenous people influenced military choices and strategic action. Ranging from the Muscovites on the western steppe to the French and English in North America, it analyzes how diplomatic and military systems were designed to accommodate the demands and expectations of local peoples, who aided the imperial powers even as they often became subordinated to them. Contributors take on the analytical problem from a variety of levels, from the detailed case studies of the different ways indigenous peoples could be employed, to more comprehensive syntheses and theoretical examinations of diplomatic processes, ethnic soldier mobilization, and the interaction of culture and military technology.

Warfare and Culture series

Contributors: Virginia Aksan, David R. Jones, Marjoleine Kars, Wayne E. Lee, Mark Meuwese, Douglas M. Peers, Geoffrey Plank, Jenny Hale Pulsipher, and John K. Thornton

Excerpt

Wayne E. Lee

Despite the near constant historical attention, the success of European expansion around the world continues to inspire debate over its meaning, consequences, and, of interest here, its causes and methods. the popular acclaim and subsequent academic criticism of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies have highlighted the extent to which the subject continues simultaneously to fascinate and trouble. Western European states in the early modern era successfully hacked out trading and limited territorial empires in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, often at one another’s expense, but primarily at the expense of the local peoples they encountered. the basic outlines of that story are well known, as are the arguments for the roles of disease, technology, military technique, and even a basic willingness to employ horrific violence. Imperial expansion, however, was not a Western prerogative in this period. the Russians, Ottomans, Mughals, Chinese, and others also were busily pushing the boundaries of their control, and they, too, confronted similar problems in managing the problems of conquest warfare in intercultural contexts. Local peoples proved to be essential determinants of imperial success or failure. Far from being mere victims, these peoples found ways to profit from imperial maneuverings: they could find employment and profit as allies, or they might direct the interests and energies of imperial powers against their traditional enemies. Indeed, imperial “expansion” was very often illusory, and Europeans’ ability to project power actually depended entirely on local cooperation. in turn, that cooperative process shaped and reshaped the warfare and diplomatic practices designed to define and establish sovereignty and control, whether local or European. New cultures of power and cultures of war were born in the many crucibles of encounter around the globe, and this book, Empires and Indigenes, explores these themes and more.

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