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Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier
JAMES H. MERRELL

Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier by James H. Merrell
7 reviews (1999) (463p)
Pulitzer Prize for History Finalist

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Book Description
James Merrell's brilliant book is an account of the "go-betweens," the Europeans and Indians who moved between cultures on the Pennsylvania frontier in efforts to maintain the peace. It is also a reflection on the meanings of wilderness to the colonists and natives of the New World. From the Quaker colony's founding in the 1680s into the 1750s, Merrell shows us how the go-betweens survived in the woods, dealing with problems of food, travel, lodging, and safety, and how they sought to bridge the vast cultural gaps between the Europeans and the Indians. The futility of these efforts became clear in the sickening plummet into war after 1750.


Amazon.com Review
Although the American West was ultimately won by killing nearly every Indian who got in the way, the initial contacts between native and Euro-American cultures were for the most part peaceful, defined by the social and geopolitical norms set by the land's original inhabitants. Into the American Woods examines how semiprofessional negotiators defined a "middle ground" in frontier Pennsylvania where schisms between Anglos and native Americans were temporarily appeased for mutual economic and political gain.

English colonial administrators, seeking to purchase land, establish trade, and avert conflict, became dependent on opportunists at the colony's edge, such as German entrepreneur Conrad Weiser, or trader George Groghan, to negotiate with the Delaware, Shawnee, Iroquois, and other regional tribes and bands. Uninterested in learning the ways of new arrivals, the native peoples sent sons of mixed European and Indian heritage or Christian converts to negotiate on their behalf. By trading wampum, using sign language, and scribbling pictographs, these go-betweens developed ambiguously effective means of bridging cultural divides. Negotiators, however, did not fully trust each other's intentions and maintained the prejudices of their own cultures. The French-Indian Wars lessened the effectiveness of councils or other forms of negotiation and tensions between Anglo and Native American civilizations intensified, culminating in the infamous "Paxton Boys" massacre of 1763. Each stage of Merrell's lively, extremely well-researched analysis is filled with colorful "woods lore"--anecdotes often comic in nature, focusing on the rampant alcoholism and bawdiness of frontier life--which illustrate the personalities of key negotiators, as well as the strategies and conditions by which White and Native America conversed in the early 18th century, an era when the wampum belt carried more power on the frontier than the flintlock. --John Anderson


James H. Merrell Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 1 Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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