Empire by Collaboration

Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, Governments in Colonial Illinois Country will be published by University of Pennsylvania Press in early 2015.  It is part of the Early American Studies Series.

Empire by Collaboration

This book explores the interaction of peoples and governments in the middle of the North American continent during the seventeenth and eighteenth century. From the 1670s, when the French at Quebec established a mostly reluctant alliance with the Illinois Indians, and Jesuits and fur traders planted defiant outposts in the Illinois River Valley beyond the Great Lakes Watershed, the Illinois was a territory in tension with imperial plans. Indeed, the earliest colony in Illinois was not only unplanned, but clearly opposite to the designs that French officials had for their North American colonial empire. And although the colony eventually became substantial, its relationship to the imperial governments in the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes was frequently in question. Throughout the eighteenth century, as both Canada and Louisiana alternately claimed authority over the Illinois, and as British and Spanish authorities later tried to divide the region with a political border at the Mississippi River, there was considerable uncertainty about who really would control this colonial region, giving the inhabitants options as they played one government off another. Illinois became a haven for fur traders, farmers, missionaries, and Indians who sought to realize alternative visions for colonial life at the edges of these competing powers. Eventually, the colonists and Indians of Illinois asserted a kind of self-determination which gave the community a unique identity within the French empire. And yet, the colonists and Illinois Indians were not independent. They welcomed and partnered with empire in many ways. The story of Illinois in the colonial period is the story of a collaborative empire that rested on the constant negotiation of local and imperial interests and the subsequent emergence of new economies, new forms of social life, and new definitions of political subjectivity.

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