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Empires, Nations, and Families: A New History of the North American West, 1800-1860by Anne F Hyde
Synopses & Reviews
To most people living in the West, the Louisiana Purchase made little difference: the United States was just another imperial overlord to be assessed and manipulated. This was not, as Empires, Nations, and Families makes clear, virgin wilderness discovered by virtuous Anglo entrepreneurs. Rather, the United States was a newcomer in a place already complicated by vying empires. This book documents the broad family associations that crossed national and ethnic lines and that, along with the river systems of the trans-Mississippi West, formed the basis for a global trade in furs that had operated for hundreds of years before the land became part of the United States.
Empires, Nations, and Families shows how the world of river and maritime trade effectively shifted political power away from military and diplomatic circles into the hands of local people. Tracing family stories from the Canadian North to the Spanish and Mexican borderlands and from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Anne F. Hyde's narrative moves from the earliest years of the Indian trade to the Mexican War and the gold rush era. Her work reveals how, in the 1850s, immigrants to these newest regions of the United States violently wrested control from Native and other powers, and how conquest and competing demands for land and resources brought about a volatile frontier culture--not at all the peace and prosperity that the new power had promised.
Winner of the 2012 Bancroft Prize
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 doubled the size of the new United States, promising not only land but prosperity for its citizens. But the West was not the virgin wilderness of common myth. Rather, as historian Anne F. Hyde makes clear in her groundbreaking, prizewinning history, America was a newcomer in a place already complicated by vying empires-native and European. Here, for the first time, she traces the network of multiethnic family associations, which, along with the river systems of the trans-Mississippi West, had formed the basis for the global fur trade for centuries. Involved with this trade were trappers, hunters, merchants, bankers, and politicians by the thousands. Dazzling in its breadth and startling in its intimacy, Empires, Nations, and Families provides a new look at Native nations and the economies and societies they built as well as a radically new understanding of the web of families, businesses, and personal empires that organized the North American West before the Civil War and the rise of the American empire.
“Ingenious. A magnificent scholarly achievement. A sweeping new narrative account of [western] history. A book to ponder and plunder.”
—Virginia Scharff, Western Quarterly Review
“Not only well researched and presented but instantly absorbing.”
About the Author
Anne F. Hyde is the William R. Hochman Professor of History at Colorado College. She is the author of An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture, 1820-1920, and the coauthor, with William Deverell, of The West in the History of the Nation.
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