North America's Indian Trade in European Commerce and Imagination, Colpitts offers new perspectives on Europe's contact with America by examining the ideas, debates and questions arising in the trading that linked newcomers with Native people. European capitalization of the Indian Trade, beginning in the 16th century, forced newcomers to confront the meaning and legitimacy of traditional gift economies and assess the vice and virtue of the commerce they pursued in the New World. Making use of French and English colonization texts, published narratives and state colonial papers, the author explores how European capital investments, credit, profits and commercial linkages elaborated and complicated understandings of North American people in the period of colonization.
George Colpitts, Ph.D. (2000), University of Alberta, is an historian at the University of Calgary. He has published numerous articles on the fur trade and the book,
Game in the Garden: A Human History of Wildlife in Western Canada to 1940 (UBC, 2001).
In this intellectual history, the second volume in Brill's "Early American History" series, Colpitts (history, Univ. of Calgary, Canada) examines what he terms the ongoing European fascination with the Indian trade from the period of exploration and colonization to the mid-19th century. The author also suggests and examines some ways that perceptions and descriptions of Indian trade changed according to the rise and fall of virtues associated with commercial capital, primarily in western Europe. He is successful in both endeavors. Colpitts misses very little. He considers the influence of writers, traders, trappers, government agents, the church, and the traditional interpretations and descriptions fo Indian trade practices over several centuries. Given all this, not surprisingly, what stands out is the overwhelming importance of self-interest. The work is thorough, interesting, even eye-opening at times, and it will make colonial historians reexamine their understanding and opinions about the Indian trade. An exceptionally strong bibliography, illustrations, an index, and extensive footnotes printed on the pertinent pages add to this exceptional volume.
Summing Up: Essential. Most levels/libraries.
-- P. T. Sherrill, emeritus, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
[This review appeared in the June 2014 issue of
Copyright 2014 American Library Association
All interested in the history of America and its contact zones, trade, exchange and cultural encounter, and the expansion of market economies in the era of colonization.