Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795

Article excerpt

An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795. By Robert Paulett. Early American Places. (Athens, Ga., and London: University of Georgia Press, 2012. Pp. [xvi], 259. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-4347-1; cloth, $69.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-4346-4.)

In An Empire of Small Places: Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795, Robert Paulett makes a bold proposition: to say something new about the eighteenth-century trade between southeastern Indians and British colonists. This is no mean task. The history of southern Indians has been a robust area of scholarly production for three decades, and perhaps no aspect of this history has received more attention than the deerskin trade. Like any scholar embarking on this well-worn path, Paulett is indebted to those who have cleared the way before him. In this volume he nevertheless manages to articulate a rather unique framework for understanding the deerskin trade and its participants, as well as the "surprisingly stable and durable system of places" in which it unfolded (pp. 2-3).

Paulett begins his study with an examination of spaces of the Anglo-Indian deerskin trade from a regional perspective. While cartographers and colonial administrators worked to graft their imperial ambitions onto broad swaths of space largely unknown to them, Creeks and traders insisted that the nodes of the deerskin trade were "strung together," like beads on a string (chap. 1). Paulett admits that colonial maps were "elite documents," accessible only to a privileged few, but he nevertheless demonstrates that the experiences of deerskin traders' travel into Indian country shaped the nature of spatial representation among British colonials (p. 22). The second chapter extends this concern with the way the deerskin trade influenced British conceptions of the area's geography to rivers and riverine travel. This section succeeds in demonstrating the centrality of water transport to the trade; but by focusing almost exclusively on the Savannah River, it fails to elucidate broader trends in the region as a whole. The real gem in Paulett's consideration of the Savannah is his examination of the essential role that enslaved boatmen played within the deerskin trade. …

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