The Comanche Empire
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The Comanche Empire

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  271 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a Native American empire rose to dominate the fiercely contested lands of the American Southwest, the southern Great Plains, and northern Mexico. This powerful empire, built by the Comanche Indians, eclipsed its various European rivals in military prowess, political prestige, economic power, commercial reach, and cultural i...more
Hardcover, 500 pages
Published May 28th 2008 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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316th out of 968 books — 1,383 voters
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Jun 22, 2009 Terence rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: students of Native Amer & Western history
When I was growing up in eastern Missouri it was de rigueur that the man-children of the clan become Boy Scouts. Thus, despite little aptitude or interest, I was duly enrolled in the Cub Scouts and spent summer weekends attending den meetings and going on the occasional camping trip. (Don’t fear that this diversion is going to descend into horror stories about mental and physical abuse – happily my life as a Scout was quite banal. I never got beyond the Cub stage, truth be told, and my parents w...more
This is described as part of the Lamar Series in Western History, which includes scholarly works of interest to the general reader for the purpose of understanding human affairs in the American West and adding a wider understanding of the West's significance to America's existence. This is certainly a book fit for academic use, but it also is informative to the general historical reader. The extensive source material used in the book's research produces extensive documentation of the facts while...more
Wow. Really wow. A truly great work of history. This book has everything. It is a compelling story, a mind bendingly different view of commonly accepted fact and a very well researched uber serious history with over one hundred pages of notes. Oh yes and it is well written. It has clear structured prose that is a pleasure to read.

All I knew about the Comanche before I read this book were that they were a fierce tribe who lived in the south west of present day U.S.A. and had a deadly rivalry with...more
Ernest Spoon
A straight, no chaser, ethno-history book on the rise and fall of what author Pekka Hamalainen accurately call the Comanche Empire of the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries on the southern plains region of what is now the United States.

The rise of the Comanche hegemony was facilitated by an economic system based on their mastery and perfection of equestrian culture and husbandry. Their fall hinged on the failure of that culture modify the basic economic model due to climatic change and environmenta...more
Craig Werner
Okay, I'll get this out of my system first: skip chapter 6. There, that's better.

It's not often that I read a book that fundamentally changes my sense of a major part of American history, especially not in one of the areas I read a lot in. PH's reconsideration of the history of the southern plains and Southwest does just that. The basic argument is clear: in order to understand the history of the region she (he? Finnish names confuse me) focuses on the areas encompassing Texas, New Mexico and ex...more
For a non-fiction book, I was surprised how I couldn't put it down at some points. It isn't just packing information into a book, it tells the story of the Comanches. I thought it had a great balance in helping understand the Spanish and why they did what they did (and later other groups) and understanding the Comanches and why they did what they did. Neither were portrayed as outright victims or oppressors, and the book allowed the reader to make their own judgments based on evidence.

After too...more
If I could give 6 stars, I would. This is one of those rare books that forces me to discipline myself. It was so good that I was on pace to finish it in a couple of days, but I intentionally slowed down to savor it. I wish more history books were as well written, thoroughly researched, and liberally footnoted.
Lucy Inglis
If you have any interest in the history of America (South West, admittedly, but still), or the American Indians and their culture, this is essential reading. I loved it. Serious without being dry, and full of good writing.
Kate Lawrence
I became interested in the Comanches after reading Empire of the Summer Moon, a bestseller last year about Comanche chief Quanah Parker and the last few decades of the tribe's nomadic life on the Southwestern grasslands. Unlike Summer Moon, which was written by a journalist, Comanche Empire begins at the beginning, when the tribe first appears on the scene as a distinct group in the 17th century. Written by a history professor, it is focused on their political and economic dominance in the regio...more
This is brilliant history.The author presents a very different view of the Comanche nation than that of the traditional warrior, hunter-gather notion that has dominated the Western view. While perhaps stretching the term "empire" a bit, Hamalainen shows the Comanches as an adaptable and sophisticated society that successfully dominated the Southwest for over 150 years. Moving out of the Rockies at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Comanches quickly pushed out competing tribes, most es...more
Saw this on the shelf at an indie book store in Jackson, WY. and I had to have it. Hamalainen's bold thesis is that the Comanche Empire was the dominant power in the southwestern US/Spainish Empire/Republic of Mexico area for about two centuries or so. Although many (positive) reviews call Empire "revisionist" it's hard to apply such a pejorative terms to such a comprehensive, well researched work. Hamalainen incorporates trends in both American and European histiography while advancing the thes...more
Recommend at 4+ level for learning about Comanche.

CIP Subjects
1. Comanche Indians-History
2. Comanche Indians-Government relations
3. United States-History-19th century
4. Mexico-History-To 1810

Very useful book, excellent index, one to read and refer to over time rather than straight through ... my evaluative searches found clear information. Print size too small for comfort. My interest in the Lipan Apache and Kiowa Apache led to following quote that reflects content and style :

"Soon Comanches wer...more
Roger Burk
"Empire" is a misnomer--there was no emperor, no imperial government, hardly any government at all. As the author himself says, the Comanches were nomadic pastoralists, like the ancient Scyths, the Huns before Attila, or the Mongols before Genghis Khan. They pioneered the horse-centered way of life of the plains Indians, and developed a kind of parasitic economy in the southern prairie. It produced only buffalo and horses, and the Comanches relied on the surrounding settled peoples for everythin...more
Really great. Larry McMurtry, in a quote on the cover, calls this "cutting-edge revisionist western history," but I'm not sure I'd call it revisionist. More just additive. It answered questions I didn't even know I had. There are many elements of Hamalainen's thesis that could be debated, but the importance of restoring this story to the history of the North American West seems so obvious. Hamalainen argues that you can't really understand major events in the 19th century American narrative- lik...more
I want to be explicit in making invidious comparisons between this and Empire of the Summer Moon. This book challenges a lot of assumptions about what a "tribe" is, about what hegemony looks like, and about who is a Native American. The history went way beyond anything I previously knew, but what was important for me was the breaking of stereotypes.
Jeffrey Miner
As a rule, I don't list books I read for work here, but this one is worthy of an exception. If you only read one book about the history of the American Southwest in your lifetime, I recommend this one. Granted, it's the only book I've ever read about the history of the American Southwest, but don't let that backhanded compliment fool you. This is a really excellent piece of scholarship that also happens to be readable, informative, and thought-provoking. If you ever wondered how it is that New M...more
This is a very well researched book on the Comanche Indian tribe and how they achieved dominance in the western U.S. through development of trading with American settlers, Mexico, and other Indian tribes.
Todd Stansbury
This is a very good book. Fascinating exploration of a relatively unconsidered imperial power. I had to race through it, which was unfortunate, and what accounts for not giving it a full five stars. I look forward to perusing it at my leisure in the future.
Makes a good case that it was an empire. clear explication, sourced, for economics, politics, diplomacy, a little on the religion, population, technology. stunning how they devastated northern mexico for decades, how New Mexico bought peace, how white and native american trading groups prospered or didn't based on the commanche trade. gives me some more insight into how other horse and war technology empires rose and fell, like various larger asian migratory type empires such as the khazars, var...more
Charles Kennedy
One of the best histories on the Southwest U.S. especially as it pertains to the Comanche prior to U.S. citizens began taking their land. It presents a thesis that the Comanche were the most powerful people in the South Plains bar none for about 2 centuries. The author gives a reasonable explanation that the Comanche were in decline when they finally met the U.S. army. Even the Texans pre-civil war were unable to effectively contest for control of the South Plains.
Truly one of the best resuscitation of Native American history from the dark depths of politically correct pity-party of romanticized-by-hippies nonsense back to what they really were, people with interests, dynamic historical actors, power players, and asskickers.
Ann Taylor
I enjoyed this book a great deal. I grew up on what was the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache reservation and went to school with several Comanche kids. This book showed me a lot about the tribe's history.
This history of the Comanche Empire in the American southwest and Mexico reveals the "hidden history" that is not taught in schools. Excellent read.
so much information! It felt more like a book I would have been assigned to read in college, less like one to read simply for pleasure.
Christopher Johnson
Truly and innovative and outstanding work of history. It turns the received history of the Southwest on its head
Shonda Wilson
This is a highly comprehensive look at the Comanche in a very unique manner, I liked the book a lot.
Completely changed the way I understood the history of the American South West!
JohnM44 Miller
Outstanding historiography, serious, readable and surprising. Highly recommended.
This book will completely change the way you look at Native American cultures.
Britton Roseberry
Great revisionist history of the American southwest.
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Pekka Hämäläinen is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2012 he will be the Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University.

He is the author of The Comanche Empire (2008), which won several awards, including the Bancroft Prize, the OAH Merle Curti Award, the Caughey Prize, the Norris and Carol Hundley Award, and a Recognition of Excellence Award fro...more
More about Pekka Hämäläinen...
Major Problems in the History of North American Borderlands Myönteisyyden mahtava voima Jaksamisesta innostumiseen - työssä ja elämässä Isä ja minä : ainutlaatuinen ihmissuhde hyvässä ja pahassa Sinulla on vain yksi elämä - anna kiireelle kenkää

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