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The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes, 1754-1814

The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes, 1754-1814
David Curtis Skaggs & Larry L. Nelson, Editors
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Sixty Years' War

The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes contains twenty essays concerning not only military and naval operations, but also the political, economic, social, and cultural interactions of individuals and groups during the struggle to control the great freshwater lakes and rivers between the Ohio Valley and the Canadian Shield. Contributing scholars represent a wide variety of disciplines and institutional affiliations from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.Collectively, these important essays delineate the common thread, weaving together the series of wars for the North American heartland that stretched from 1754 to 1814. The war for the Great Lakes was not merely a sideshow in a broader, worldwide struggle for empire, independence, self-determination, and territory. Rather, it was a single war, a regional conflict waged to establish hegemony within the area, forcing interactions that divided the Great Lakes nationally and ethnically for the two centuries that followed.


In the introduction to her Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History, historian and demographer Helen Hornbeck Tanner tells that her interest in Great Lakes Indian history began in 1963 when she was casually asked to find out what Indians had lived near her home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That initial request began a period of protracted, original research that would eventually define much of her career, encompass the history of the entire Great Lakes region from about 1640 to 1820, and figure prominently in the work of the Indian Claims Commission. "Unwittingly," she writes, "I had been drawn into the most singularly unexplored area of Indian history in the eastern United States — the Ohio country," unexplored, she points out, because at the time the region seemed to offer little of interest for anthropologists or historians.

Today, few of either profession would characterize the colonial and territorial-era history of the Great Lakes region in such a manner. Indeed, frontier and trans-Appalachian studies in general, and Ohio Valley/Great Lakes scholarship in particular, have emerged as particularly vigorous and viable fields. That renaissance is the result of the fortuitous confluence of several trends. Frontier studies seem to enjoy wide general interest, sparked perhaps in part by the coming of age of a generation raised watching the weekly adventures of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, and continue to benefit from strong popular interest in Native American culture and history. Advances in methodology and historiographic emphasis, including "The New Social History," ethnohistory, regional and local history, material culture studies, evolving sensibilities of race, culture, ethnicity and gender created within feminist and ethnic studies, and cross-disciplinary understandings derived from ethnography, cultural anthropology, sociology, cultural geography, and archaeology have given modern practitioners tools of unprecedented sophistication and refinement. Lastly, the renaissance profited from the first wave of scholars to enter the area, whose work convincingly demonstrated the worth of the mid-American studies. Scholarship including Helen Tanner's own cartographic insights, the genius for narrative demonstrated by Stephen Aron, David Edmunds and John Mack Faragher. the chiding admonitions of Francis Jennings and Rob Allen, the emphasis on cross-cultural analysis displayed in the work of Colin Calloway and Ian Steele, and a brilliance for creating organizational and explanatory paradigms shown by Fred Anderson, Drew Cayton, Gregory Dowd, Michael McConnell, and Richard White, to name only a few, legitimized the endeavor, defined it in terms of academic excellence and scholastic rigor, and provided the initial momentum that continues to propel the field today. We are particularly proud that several of these scholars allowed new additions to their contributions to be published in this volume.

On 18 September 1998, over 225 American, Canadian, and European scholars, secondary and primary educators, museum personnel, archivists, and a heartening number of interested lay-enthusiasts, all of whom share an abiding interest in the early history of the Great Lakes region, met for a three day conference at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Collectively they examined the long series of colonial and early national-era conflicts that swept through the region beginning in 1754 with the onset of the Seven Years', or French and Indian, War and ending at the conclusion of the War of 1812. Despite the program's militaristic theme, the conference organizers wished the participants to probe beyond the traditional focus on tactics and strategy and to assess instead these conflicts' immediate and long-term political, ideological, economic, cultural, and material consequences for the region and the two nations that emerged from the struggle. While acknowledging that these wars were fought at different times by different people for different reasons, the organizers urged the attendees to view the struggles collectively and to deal with them as parts of a single conflict, a nearly three-generation-long contest waged among European, American, Canadian, and Native peoples for suzerainty over the Great Lakes. The initial response to the organizing committee's request was encouraging and eventually the conference was constructed around forty-one papers delivered in twenty-one sessions. This book presents twenty of the best papers given at the conference and, while not intended to be a comprehensive overview, suggests the creative vitality and wide variety of topics and methodologies shaping the field today.

Tags: helen tanner, pluto, sixty years war

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