Masters of the Middle Waters: Indian Nations and Colonial Ambitions along the Mississippi

Masters of the Middle Waters: Indian Nations and Colonial Ambitions along the Mississippi

by Jacob F. Lee


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A riveting account of the conquest of the vast American heartland that offers a vital reconsideration of the relationship between Native Americans and European colonists, and the pivotal role of the mighty Mississippi.

America’s waterways were once the superhighways of travel and communication. Cutting a central line across the landscape, with tributaries connecting the South to the Great Plains and the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River meant wealth, knowledge, and power for those who could master it. In this ambitious and elegantly written account of the conquest of the West, Jacob Lee offers a new understanding of early America based on the long history of warfare and resistance in the Mississippi River valley.

Lee traces the Native kinship ties that determined which nations rose and fell in the period before the Illinois became dominant. With a complex network of allies stretching from Lake Superior to Arkansas, the Illinois were at the height of their power in 1673 when the first French explorers—fur trader Louis Jolliet and Jesuit priest Jacques Marquette—made their way down the Mississippi. Over the next century, a succession of European empires claimed parts of the midcontinent, but they all faced the challenge of navigating Native alliances and social structures that had existed for centuries. When American settlers claimed the region in the early nineteenth century, they overturned 150 years of interaction between Indians and Europeans.

Masters of the Middle Waters shows that the Mississippi and its tributaries were never simply a backdrop to unfolding events. We cannot understand the trajectory of early America without taking into account the vast heartland and its waterways, which advanced and thwarted the aspirations of Native nations, European imperialists, and American settlers alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674987678
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/11/2019
Pages: 360
Sales rank: 592,394
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jacob F. Lee is Assistant Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University. A historian of early America and the American West, he received fellowships from the Huntington Library, the Newberry Library, and the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, for his work on this book.

Table of Contents

Introduction; Cities of the Living, Cities of the Dead 1

1 In Cahokia's Wake 13

2 Conversions 49

3 Alliances and Fractures 84

4 A New World? 122

5 An Empire of Kin 156

6 Conquest 195

Conclusion: The Deep History of the Midcontinent 231

Abbreviations 239

Notes 243

Acknowledgments 329

Credits 333

Index 335

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