I am so tired of reading “new” histories of the North American borderlands and “new” conceptualizations of “empire” that read just like anything that Francis Parkman or Frederick Jackson Turner ever wrote, except minus the racism. Now, that “minus the racism” part is important, don’t get me wrong. But is it really an intervention for which modern historians should be congratulated when we assume that historical Native Americans were rational and had their own politics?
Having read a whack of recent histories that address the Great Basin and Great Plains in the past few years, a region whose economy was based in large part on the trade in bodies and the labor of female slaves from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, I want to hear more about these captive women and less about the men who lead those raids and profit from stealing, raping, exploiting, and/or reselling those women. Every author alive today makes this point in his book–and yet, that’s just about the extent of his analysis. I want books written from the perspective of these women and girls, not more books written from the perspective of the dudes on the horses, whether those dudes are European, Euro-American, or Native American. Didn’t we get enough of those books about the manly exploits of armed and mounted men in the nineteenth century? Continue Reading »