Book Review: American Encounters

American Encounters:  Natives And Newcomers From European Contact To Indian Removal, 1500-1850, edited by Peter C. Mancall and James H. Merrell

If you want to read a textbook (almost literally) example of the sort of corrupt and shoddy scholarship that gets passed off as serious history in our contemporary age, this book is a great example.  As someone who is interested in the interaction of Europeans and native peoples [1] in North America, there is clearly subject material of interest here.  Yet this book has basically no value as legitimate history because nearly every paper included here is written with some kind of left-wing intersectionist ax to grind.  The book is useful only as a demonstration of the corruption of contemporary historical scholarship because of leftist ideology and as an exhibit of taxpayer dollars going to waste in order to engage in hating whitey and other progressive causes.  Other than that, this book is basically garbage, and the paper wasted on this could have been better served as toilet paper in an outhouse in West Virginia or anywhere else.  Since I am not content merely to say that, though, but to demonstrate it, it is worth examining this book’s massive failures in greater detail.

Over the course of nearly 600 tedious pages, this book contains twenty-five chapters divided into two parts that focus mostly on the colonial period as well as the early American republic.  The prologue to the book consists of two papers, one of them looking at the old world of the Indians before contact (1) and the other looking at the Catawba experience in the new world (2), and how they managed to survive despite demographic collapse.  After that there is a laughably funny essay on the ecological imperialism of European plants that proved themselves stronger than native varieties (3), as well as some catty Native American views of French culture in the seventeenth century (4), the contrast between Iroqouis and European women (5), and the fate of Illinois native transvestites, called Berdache (6), as well as a look at generations of native Martha’s Vinyard Christians (7), and dumb pagan Ojibwe interpretations of a thrifty missionary as an evil shaman (8).  After that are five essays on economy and exchange including the prestige values of European and colonial trade goods (9), the social costs of Indian drinking (10), the frontier exchange economy of the Mississippi valley (11), the repeated attempts by Cherokee to rebuild the town of Keowee (12), and the whalemen of Nantucket (13).  There are essays on the Iroquois experience of war in the colonial period (14), the difficulties of ruling the natives in Spanish Florida (15), whites who went native (16), and fashion on the Mohawk frontier of mid 18th century New York (17).  This closes part one, leaving part two to have the remaining essays on nativism and unity in Pontiac and Tecumseh (18), the Glaize in 1792 Ohio (19), the identity of the Narragansett people in the revolutionary era of Rhode Island (20), the nadir of Cherokee fortunes in the early 19th century (21), Indian authority in the Missions of California (22), a hilariously profane interpretation of the 1824 Chumash uprising (23), the role of Cherokee women in the Trail of Tears (24), and the expansion of the Sioux in the 18th and 19th centuries (25).

Although this book doesn’t deserve much credit, it does deserve at least some credit for attempting a broad area of discussion, both geographically and otherwise.  If this book is full of leftist misinterpretations of history and the characteristic obsession of leftists on issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality, it is at least comprehensive in its scope.  If you want to save yourself many hours of reading and get the gist of what these undeserving public employees used your tax dollars to write about in order to burnish their own reputations as scholars, think of any particular situation in the interactions between European settlers and their descendants and indigenous peoples and colored every interpretation of every one of those situations under the rubric of intersectionality, with negative points for being white, male, straight, and Christian.  If you can imagine what that looks like, you will get where this book and its authors are coming from.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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