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Beyond Settler Colonialism

State Sovereignty in Early America

In: Journal of Early American History
Author: Charles Prior1
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This paper offers a critical reflection on the appropriateness of ‘settler colonialism’ as an analytic category for understanding the political dynamics of early America. It argues that the paradigm’s focus on the elimination of the native obscures the resilience of Indian power, and the mechanisms by which that power was exercised and defended. The paper positions settler colonialism in recent treatments of the history of colonial political thought, and then presents diplomacy as a site of both sovereign formation and negotiation that enhanced the power of colonies as much as it preserved the power of Indian confederations. The final section of the paper suggests that the ‘interior’ sovereignty of Native Americans continued to shape the powers of the new republican order of states.

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