T he volumes in this Oxford University Press book series focus on major critical encounters in the American experience. The word “critical” refers to formative, vital, transforming events and actions that have had a major impact in shaping the ever-changing contours of life in the United States. “Encounter” indicates a confrontation or clash, oftentimes but not always contentious in character, but always full of profound historical meaning and consequence.
In this framework, the United States, it can be said, has evolved on contested ground. Conflict and debate, the clash of peoples and ideas, have marked and shaped American history. The first Europeans transported with them cultural assumptions that collided with Native American values and ideas. Africans forced into bondage and carried to America added another set of cultural beliefs that often were at odds with those of Native Americans and Europeans. Over the centuries America’s diverse peoples differed on many issues, often resulting in formative conflict that in turn gave form and meaning to the American experience.
The Critical Historical Encounters series emphasizes formative episodes in America’s contested history. Each volume contains two fundamental ingredients: a carefully written narrative of the encounter and the consequences, both immediate and long-term, of that moment of conflict in America’s contested history.