Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, by White
This book seeks to step outside the simple stories of Indian/white relations--stories of conquest and assimilation and stories of cultural persistence. It is, instead, about a search for accommodation and common meaning. It tells how Europeans and Indians met, regarding each other as alien, as virtually nonhuman, and how between 1650 and 1815 they constructed a common, mutually comprehensible world in the region around the Great Lakes that the French called the "Pays d'en haut". Here the older worlds of the Algonquins and various Europeans overlapped, and their mixture created new systems of meaning and of exchange. Finally, the book tells of the breakdown of accommodation and common meanings and the recreation of the Indians as alien and exotic. The process of accommodation described in this book takes place in a middle ground, a place in between cultures and peoples, and in between empires and non-state villages. On the middle ground people try to persuade others who are different than themselves by appealing to what they perceive to be the values and practices of those others. From the creative misunderstandings that result, there arise shared meanings and new practices.
Influential beyond its scope
By A Customer - August 19, 1999
Anyone who has attended an academic history conference in the last five or so years already realizes the impact that this densely-written, but provocatively argued book by an historian of the American west has had on the study of American history. For both good and ill, White's central thesis -- that Indians and Europeans in the Great Lakes region created together and sustained an elaborate system of cultural and political contact that endured for centuries based not on mutual understandings, but mutual MISunderstandings, often deliberate ones -- has come to set the tone for the most recent studies of cultural encounter and creolization in the New World. Indeed, White's "middle ground" bids fair to assume the blanket hegemony exercised over the American historical imagination a decade or more back by the idea of "republicanism." And, not without cause: White's book is in many respects a stupendous achievement -- exhaustively researched, laser-subtle... read more
Breaking new ground
By Bill Perez - February 2, 2005
Richard White should be awfully proud of himself. Using a close examination of a particular time in a particular place, he manages to open one's eyes to an entirely new way of thinking about the long term dynamics of human interaction that we call "history". Works like these are the fruit of all the painstaking hard work that American historians have been contributing over the last one or two generations. The studies of gender, environment, disease and race might seem like annoying "political correctness" to the close-minded, but when divorced from ideological polemics (pro or con) they have proven to be goldmines of fresh perspective. This book is an elegant example of what can be achieved when the primary evidence is reassessed in the light of this new spirit of inquiry.
Amply supported by a wide selection of primary sources, White plunges into a detailed dissection of the course of history in what the French called the "Pays d'en haut"--the roughly triangular territory... read more
A professional work
By Chris Kostov - February 3, 2006
Richard White managed to write a historical book that combines political, social, and cultural history with a wonderful writing style, which captures the readers' attention from the very beginning.
White indicated in the introduction of his book that he "seeks to step outside the simple stories of Indian/white relations- stories of conquest and assimilation and stories of cultural pesistence." The book is about a search of accommodation and common meaning, according to the author.
Richard White maintains that in the Middle ground of the Great Lakes, many different cultures met and accommodated their differences to be able to live together. This Middle ground of overlapping cultures and lifestyles brought mutual understanding, changes in all societies and influence on one another, not assimialtion. The big colonial wars, however, concludes White, led to sudden ruptures of accommodation and common meanings between Europeans and Indians.
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