At first glance, Virginia DeJohn Anderson’s Creatures of Empire is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the environmental history of early America; on closer observation, the work is very much more than this. Indeed, it is more a cultural history than an environmental history.
These books present reassessments of the colonizer/colonized relationship and how individuals and groups negotiated their space in conflict, spanning the period from earlier colonization to the brink of the American Revolution.
In the opening of his recent volume, Nature and History in the Potomac Country, historian James D. Rice informs his readers that the idea for the book began with what he perceived as a ‘hole in the map’ (p. 1).
This book is a study of the exercise of imperial power in the early modern era and the way authorities at all levels moved, expelled, and transported people within the British Empire. Morgan and Rushton investigate some of the processes by which a wide variety of peoples under many different circumstances were forcibly moved.
Across the 17th century, more than 350,000 English people went to America. Yet many, if not most of those who went brought with them a keen sense of their bringing ‘Englishness’ with them, rather than transforming into ‘Americans’. Emigrants travelled to the New World for a variety of reasons.
Imagine the surprise of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft when, on a humid July day in 1846, he picked up a copy of the Albany Argus, a New York state Democratic Party newspaper, only to learn that he had been murdered. The paper carried an obituary which reported that Schoolcraft had been shot in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan by a ‘half breed’ named John Tanner.