The Indian Peoples of Eastern America: A Documentary History of the Sexes

The Indian Peoples of Eastern America: A Documentary History of the Sexes

The Indian Peoples of Eastern America: A Documentary History of the Sexes

The Indian Peoples of Eastern America: A Documentary History of the Sexes


Using the human life cycle as an organizational framework, Axtell has gathered a broad range of 17th and 18th century European documentation on Native North Americans. With its lucid introductions to each entry, suggestions for further reading, and bibliography, this sourcebook is invaluablefor courses in history, anthropology, and native American and women's studies.


The idea for this collection came to me as I was seeking ways to make American history more engaging for students who knew only the antiseptic paraphrase and unsupported generalities of textbooks. Since professional and amateur historians obviously take great pleasure in what they do, I sought to give students some of the same pleasure by encouraging them to become practicing historians, at least temporarily while they interrogated the past in their classes. What historians find most enjoyable about their craft is research, the labyrinthine quest in primary sources for answers to their questions about the past. While most historians look upon writing as hard work, they, like Barbara Tuchman, find research "endlessly seductive." When given an opportunity to do their own research, students feel the same way, if my classes over the past thirteen years are at all typical.

The fascination of primary sources lies in their personal perspective and the immediacy of experience they convey. However lacking in objectivity or insight they may be, they were written by people at or close to the scene of the events they describe. This gives them not only primary authority as evidence but compelling interest as human artifacts, as various as the personalities that created them. It is these qualities that seduce historians of all ages.

Unfortunately, the constraints of classroom time and library holdings often make it difficult (though by no means impossible) for the student to be fairly exposed to the joys and problems of primary research. One way to surmount these difficulties is to put in the student's hands a collection of primary sources small enough to be affordable in time and cost, yet large enough to offer a field for purposeful rummaging. Completeness of coverage, of course, is probably impossible. Any event capable of fitting within the covers of such a book must be either poorly documented or relatively insignificant. For the only other requirement of such a collection is that while it must necessarily treat a microcosmic aspect of American history, it should be capable of shedding strong light on the larger whole.

Within these general guidelines I then searched my interests for a subject that would present the student with as many fruitful methodological . . .

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