Contested Spaces of Early America

Contested Spaces of Early America

Contested Spaces of Early America

Contested Spaces of Early America


Colonial America stretched from Quebec to Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. Although European settlers laid claim to territories they called New Spain, New England, and New France, the reality of living in those spaces had little to do with European kingdoms. Instead, the New World's holdings took their form and shape from the Indian territories they inhabited. These contested spaces throughout the western hemisphere were not unclaimed lands waiting to be conquered and populated but a single vast space, occupied by native communities and defined by the meeting, mingling, and clashing of peoples, creating societies unlike any that the world had seen before.

Contested Spaces of Early America brings together some of the most distinguished historians in the field to view colonial America on the largest possible scale. Lavishly illustrated with maps, Native art, and color plates, the twelve chapters span the southern reaches of New Spain through Mexico and Navajo Country to the Dakotas and Upper Canada, and the early Indian civilizations to the ruins of the nineteenth-century West. At the heart of this volume is a search for a human geography of colonial relations: Contested Spaces of Early America aims to rid the historical landscape of imperial cores, frontier peripheries, and modern national borders to redefine the way scholars imagine colonial America.

Contributors: Matthew Babcock, Ned Blackhawk, Chantal Cramaussel, Brian DeLay, Elizabeth Fenn, Allan Greer, Pekka Hämäläinen, Raúl José Mandrini, Cynthia Radding, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Alan Taylor, and Samuel Truett.


Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman

“In the last decades of the twentieth century,” argued David J. Weber, “American historians discovered America.” Scholars of New Spain, New France, and New England began to look toward other colonial regions for connections and comparisons. Ethnohistorians explored the commonalities and contrasts in histories of indigenous people from Peru to Greenland. We cannot speak of “early America” anymore with only the East Coast British colonies, the St. Lawrence River Valley, or Mexico and Peru in mind. the topic has grown vastly larger.

This volume suggests that we should think of “early” or “colonial” America on the largest possible scale. in its own historical time, our subject stretched from north of Quebec to south of Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. It needs to stretch just as far in modern understanding. This book brings together scholars and scholarly perspectives from the entirety of that zone around the organizing theme of contested spaces, places throughout the hemisphere where people who had been total strangers met, mingled, and clashed, creating colonial societies unlike any that the world had seen to that time. Our original intention was to honor David Weber’s career and achievements upon his retirement, but his death in August 2010 turned this project into a memorial. the book thus has emerged both from Weber’s lifework and from a larger turn in the study of early America to which he contributed mightily. David offered a bridge—in scholarship and among scholars—to link together the historic Americas and to see beyond borderlands, borders, and territorial crossings . . .

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