Rethinking the Early American Map

AmeriqueSeptentrionaleIt’s time we remake the North American map.

Open up most any early American history book and flip to the list of tables and figures. Chances are you’ll find—if provided—maps devoid of almost any indigenous peoples. If the book is more recent, perhaps instead you’ll find that the author included two maps: one of European settlements, and one of Native American peoples. Or, just maybe, you happen to have on hand one of the few books to merge all of these together. But look closely and see if you can find the usual tension—an unbalance resulting from the projection of European empire on one hand, and the illustration of limited, isolated, scattered indigenous nations on the other.

How can so many maps of colonial North America display European power and political influence, but not do the same for American Indian polities and groups?

Maybe the better question is, how can we overcome our own historiographical strictures and the limitations of seventeenth and eighteenth-century maps to better portray the American landscape?

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Interviews with Historians: Brett Rushforth

Brett RushforthBrett Rushforth is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary, where he teaches courses on the history of early America, American Indians, and comparative race and slavery. He is the co-editor, with Paul Mapp, of Colonial North America and the Atlantic World: A History in Documents (Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2008), and he currently serves as Book Review Editor for the William and Mary Quarterly. His first monograph, Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous and Atlantic Slaveries in New France was published by University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in 2012, and has won several awards, including the 2013 Merle Curti Award in Social History (Organization of American Historians), 2013 FEEGI Biennial Book Prize (Forum on European Expansion and Global Interaction), and 2013 Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Prize (French Colonial Historical Society). It was also recently named a finalist for the 2013 Frederick Douglass Book Prize (Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition). Dr. Rushforth is currently at work, with Christopher Hodson, on a general history of the early modern French Atlantic. Under contract with Basic Books, its working title is Discovering Empire: France and the Atlantic World from the Crusades to the Age of Revolution. Continue reading