Synopses & Reviews
A truly continental history in both its geographic and political scope, The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire
investigates eighteenth-century diplomacy involving North America and links geographic ignorance about the American West to Europeans' grand geopolitical designs. Breaking from scholars' traditional focus on the Atlantic world, Paul Mapp demonstrates the centrality of hitherto understudied western regions to early American history.
In the first two-thirds of the eighteenth century, imperial officials in London, Paris, or Madrid knew very little about western North America. Yet Europeans' competition to gain access to the Pacific Ocean and control trade to the Far East enhanced the importance of western American territories. Mapp reconstructs French, Spanish, British, and Amerindian ideas about these unknown regions, especially the elusive Northwest Passage, and shows that a Pacific focus is crucial to understanding the causes, course, and consequences of the Seven Years' War.
Mapp's work serves as a model for constructing a comprehensive colonial history of the continent. His book transcends artificially imposed boundaries of scholarly inquiry that did not exist in the diverse and interconnected early modern world and relates remote Pacific regions to the Atlantic aspects of the global Seven Years' War.
"The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire
is written in a graceful, conversational style that asks good questions and makes thoughtful answers."
-Journal of American History
"Recommended for classroom use and the general history buff seeking a new perspective."
-Colonial Latin American Historical Review
"Path-breaking . . . . A rich and novel story that will force historians to rethink some of the standard interpretations of the struggle for empire in 18th-century North America."
-London Review of Books
"Deeply researched and carefully argued."
-American Historical Review
"Mapp's prose is lucid and engaging, and he displays a dazzling knowledge of early modern European cartography. . . . [This] book is first class all the way, from the many reproduced maps to the generous space allotted for the index, and it is a pleasure to pick up and peruse."
-Arkansas Historical Quarterly
"Thoughtfully researched, structured, and argued. . . .Mapp has written an excellent book."
-Journal of Interdisciplinary History
"An impressively well-researched and thoughtful work."
-Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"Greatly expand[s] our understanding of European competition for control of North America . . . [an] encompassing and convincing argument."
-Northwest Ohio History
"Mapp displays a knowledge of European diplomacy and Borderlands history that will dazzle. . . . [He] places the elusive West back on the misinformed maps of the time and restores contingency to the course of empire."
-New Mexico Historical Review
"Deeply researched and beautifully written and illustrated book... is highly recommended."
-Tennessee Historical Quarterly
"An incredible work of history."
"One of the smartest pieces of scholarship on the eighteenth century published in the last decade. . . . A possible revolution in Seven Years War historiography."
"The book's analysis of nearly forty maps, its wide-ranging archival research, its original translations from French and Spanish sources (often rendered in the original language in the notes), and the extensive historiography in the footnotes all add up to a scholarly tour de force."
-Journal of Southern History
"An excellent job of placing Spanish Bourbon political aims and actions in a multilateral and multinational context, moving the history of the American West toward a pluralistic vision encompassing the histories of the French, Spanish, British, and, occasionally, Russian efforts that preceded the westward movement of people from the United States."
-Hispanic American Historical Review
Mapp investigates eighteenth-century diplomacy involving North America and links geographic ignorance about the American West to Europeans' grand geopolitical designs. Breaking from scholars' traditional focus on the Atlantic world, Mapp demonstrates the centrality of hitherto understudied western regions to early American history.
"Brilliantly calculating the costs of ignorance, Paul Mapp shows that what eighteenth-century European statesmen didn't know about the North American interior not only hurt the empires they served, but reshaped the world itself. The Elusive West utterly reorients our understanding of the period 1713-1763. It is a superb book."--Fred Anderson, University of Colorado, Boulder "The Elusive West puts Paul Mapp at the forefront of an exciting generation of continental early Americanists. His dazzling research combines diplomacy and geography with political, military, and intellectual history. This trailblazing book gives weight to the vast American West, both real and imagined, during the vital half-century before 1763."--Peter H. Wood, Duke University, emeritus "By examining geographic misunderstandings of North America, Mapp helps us see imperial successes and failures in an entirely new way. His insights are based on his own expansive knowledge of the long history of exploration and map-making by multiple empires, as each tried to capture the elusive nature of the continent's interior. An important and innovative book."--Kathleen DuVal, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
About the Author
Paul Mapp is associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary.