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Into the American Woods: Negotiations on the Pennsylvania Frontier
James Merrell's brilliant book is an account of the "go-betweens," the Europeans and Indians who moved between cultures on the Pennsylvania frontier in efforts to maintain the peace. It is also a reflection on the meanings of wilderness to the colonists and natives of the New World. From the Quaker colony's founding in the 1680s into the 1750s, Merrell shows us how the go- ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 17th 2000 by W. W. Norton & Company
(first published 1999)
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The world of negotiators on the frontier is one that I knew little about, and as such I learned much from this book. I didn't realize prior to reading it that this book was very narrowly focused on the negotiators themselves rather than attempting to cover a broader history of Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Given that, I would likely have benefited from reading a more general history first and then tackling this book. Even things as momentous as the French and Indian War, which I fortunately had don ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Theo Logos rated it it was amazing
William Penn, founder of the Pennsylvania Colony, was an idealist. He sincerely believed that all men, no matter how different, could live together in peace, and he based the Indian policy of his colony on that principle. A 1701 treaty between Penn's colony and the Conestogas Indians was typical; in it both sides pledged "that they shall forever hereafter be as one Head & One Heart, & live in true Friendship & Amity as one People." Penn went on to promise "for himself, his heirs and ...more
James Merrill’s 1999 work Into the American Woods focuses on the diplomatic boundary crossers and go-betweens who facilitated treaty making between different Indian groups and colonists in 17th and 18th century Pennsylvania. “Before a speaker could rise, wampum in hand, to open a treaty session, before a scribe’s pen even began to scratch its way down a page, there was a vital round of journeys taken, meals shared, letters scribbled, beads strung, speeches drafted, and squabbles settled. This wo ...more
It's hard to imagine that the frontier used to mean eastern Pennsylvania. This title takes us back to the beginnings of Indian treaties and the promises made and unmade in early colonial history. Well documented. Good read but it did take me some time. I had to handle it in chunks.
Merrell fully brings the reader into 18th century Pennsylvania as he explains the relationships between Indians and colonists while focusing on the intermediaries, a difficult group to define and give voice to. His use of primary source material is excellent.
James Hart Merrell, the Lucy Maynard Salmon Professor of History at Vassar College, was born and raised in Minnesota. Professor Merrell is one of the leading scholars of early American history, and has written extensively on Native American history during the colonial era. Professor Merrell is one of only five historians to be awarded the Bancroft Prize twice.More about James H. Merrell...