The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America

By James Axtell | Go to book overview

in the original thirteen colonies won the right to seek legal redress of past injustices in federal court.

Almost simultaneously, frontier and colonial historians began to discover the necessity of considering the American natives as real determinants of history and the utility of ethnohistory as a way of ensuring parity of focus and impartiality of judgment. As a result, the history of Indian-white relations has been revolutionized by ethnohistory in the past decade, as I showed in "The Ethnohistory of Early America: A Review Essay" ( William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser. 35 [ 1978], 110-44). Most of the tough and interesting new questions have been limited thus far to the Indian cultures, but ethnohistorians can be expected to achieve another breakthrough in understanding when they ask the same kinds of elemental questions about colonial culture, which their colleagues in social history are already beginning to ask,

This collection, then, may be regarded as a casebook in ethnohistorical method which differs from its few predecessors in providing examples of several kinds of ethnohistorical questions, sources, problems, and answers, in being written by an historian rather than an anthropologist, and in focusing equally on the European as well as the Indian side of the colonial frontiers.

These essays are also held together by a sustained interest in the social and cultural interactions of the various peoples in the greater northeastern quadrant of colonial North America, particularly the French, English, and Indians. Elsewhere I have argued that American historians should cultivate "A North American Perspective for Colonial History" which would encompass not only all the European colonies in North America and the Caribbean--French, English, Dutch, Spanish, and Swedish--but the continental mother countries, Africa, and the Atlantic shipping lanes as well. I urged that we rid ourselves of anachronistic political boundaries and pay closer attention to historical geography and to the border-

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