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"No recent work of history...has presented such a distinctive—and beautifully resonant—authorial voice."—John Demos, Yale University
The colonial communities of eighteenth-century America were perhaps the most racially, ethnically, and religiously mixed societies on earth. Lutherans and Presbyterians, Quakers, Catholics, and Covenentors, the Irish, the German, the French, the Welsh—groups that rarely intermingled in Europe—were thrown together when they confronted the American countryside. Rather than embracing the inescapable and ever-increasing diversity, the European settler communities had their very existence threatened by the tensions and fears among their own groups. Only through "Indian-hating"—in both military and rhetorical forms—could the splintered colonists find a common ground.
In potent, graceful prose that sensitively unearths the social complexity and tangled history of colonial relations, Peter Silver gives us an astonishingly vivid picture of eighteenth-century America. He straddles cultural history, political history, social history, and ethnohistory to offer groundbreaking insights into the seminal forces that continue to shape the United States today.
The mid-Atlantic colonies of 18th-century America were home to a remarkable diversity of immigrants-Germans, Quakers, Moravians, Englishmen and French, among others. In this exhaustively researched and elegantly written study, Princeton historian Silver asks how all the Europeans lived side by side. The answer, Silver says, is that they were solidified into a single people during the Seven Years' War in the 1750s by the fear of Indian attack. The motley Europeans morphed into white people, defined in opposition to Indians. (An intriguing appendix reveals that colonial newspapers tended to use the adjective "white" to describe people principally during bouts of Indian war.) But not everyone with pale skin became part of this new people-the most fascinating sections of the book explore why some European settlers, such as Quakers (who were accused of betraying white people's interests), were excluded from the collective. Silver also shows how fears of Indian menace were taken up during the Revolution: patriots shored up a distinctive American identity and claimed that the British were engaging in Indian-like atrocities, such as scalping and cannibalism. Silver's study will change the way scholars think about whiteness and will reshape our understanding of how 13 distinct colonies were knit together into one nation. 13 illus., 2 maps. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Through an examination of the frontier regions of Britain's middle provinces in North America, which included Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Maryland, Silver (history, Princeton Univ.) eloquently explains how violence united groups that were initially divided by linguistic, racial, and religious differences. The work focuses on the period between the 1740s and 1780s, when the region was wracked by conflicts such as the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Through graphic illustrations and quotes from the period, the author vividly demonstrates how extremists created paranoia among white Europeans that eventually led to the emergence of a white nationalism built on the common experience of a perceived victimization by Indians. Silver also demonstrates that Native American groups were affected in the same manner by the frontier violence, as a number of pan-Indian movements emerged that united disparate Native American groups in order to protect their communities from the numerous atrocities visited upon them by the white Europeans. This fascinating study on the role of frontier violence in forging a uniquely American psyche is highly recommended for academic and public libraries.