James Merrell

Violet Oakley. "Quaker Legend of the Latch String" Mural for the Pennsylvania State House, 1919.

















May 16, 2018.

Season Finale:  James Merrell, Professor of History at Vassar College on the Lucy Maynard Salmon Chair, talks about historical vocabulary and his article "Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American Indians" (William and Mary Quarterly July 2012), as well as his two monographs The Indians' New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal  (North Carolina, 1989) and Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier(Norton, 1999), both winners of the Bancroft Prize.


"This stunning history of the Catawbas―and their black and white neighbors―sets a new standard for the field. Merrell's book bristles with new insights and skilled decoding of difficult evidence. After reading this book, all those involved in teaching early American history should want to alter their perspective." ―Gary B. Nash, University of California, Los Angeles
"The Indians' New World is closely argued from an astonishing amount of evidence, and it is lucidly written.... It emphasizes the ingenuity and strength of will by which the Catawbas coped with disaster and preserved their identity as a people. Only a genuine scholar and fascinating writer could have paid tribute as James Merrell has done." ―Francis Jennings, Director Emeritus, D'Arey McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, The Newberry Library

"James Merrell's Into the woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier 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. "A stunningly original and exceedingly well-written account of diplomacy on the edge of the Pennsylvania wilderness."--Publishers Weekly 

52:51 minutes.

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