Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous & Atlantic Slaveries in New France

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous & Atlantic Slaveries in New France

Article excerpt

Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous & Atlantic Slaveries in New France. By Brett Rushforth. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. Pp. xv, 406, appendices, index. Cloth, $39.95.)

At the beginning of Bonds of Alliance, Brett Rushforth introduces two key objects from France's eighteenth-century American colonies: a braided hemp Amerindian slave halter and a pair of iron French shackles. The items at once seem familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of American slavery. They are, after all, objects of confinement and coercion that one would associate with the institution. But in Rushforth's analysis they are also items of connection: between maker and object, between master and slave, and between cultures. With this introduction, Rushforth sets the stage for a history of Indian enslavement in New France that reintroduces the reader to the familiar in a way that disorients and re-centers our whole understanding of France's American empire.

Rather than a mere adjunct to the fur trade, Rushforth reveals that everything we associate with French colonialism in Canada and the Great Lakes involved slave trading. Whether in calumet ceremonies, French Settlements, or trading outposts, Indian slaves occupied central positions in Franco-Indian exchanges. Systematically revisiting all the key sites of colonial interaction one by one, Rushforth reveals how central enslaved Indians and their labor were to the functioning of New France's diplomatic and economic networks. He further traces Indian slavery's connections to everything from Mediterranean prison galleys to Caribbean sugar plantations. Using a creative combination of linguistic, archaeological, and documentary evidence, Rushforth convincingly demonstrates that the exchange of Indian slaves underlay almost every major development in New France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Rushforth has also carefully mapped out the numerous regional varieties of Indian slavery practiced in the St. Lawrence Valley and the Fhys d'en Haut. He is careful to demonstrate the ways in which slavery was a mutable and ongoing adaptation within French colonial history. People whose role was to be used by others found themselves used in all kinds of ways that suited their masters: as tokens in Franco-Indian diplomacy, as tools in French colonial projects, as smugglers and servants and sex partners. Of particular interest are the ways in which Indians themselves used the slave trade to balance out their relationship with the French. Members of France's Indian alliance would routinely frustrate France's efforts to expand their diplomatic network by selling particular peoples to French slaveholders, ensuring continuing animosity between targeted groups and the French. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.