Frank Lewis and Thomas Weiss are organizing a session for the 13th
World Congress of the International Economic History Association,
Buenos Aires, July 22 - July 26, 2002, on the subject of:
ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DURING NEW WORLD COLONIZATION
The economic histories of the New World have focused primarily on the behavior of the Europeans who migrated and colonized the land, and has ignored almost entirely the economies of the indigenous peoples. The proposed session will be devoted to exploring the economic behavior of the indigenous peoples in an attempt to better document the range of economic tasks in which they engaged, the wide variety of European goods that they obtained, the extent to which they participated in market-oriented behavior, the degree of economic success they may have had in the face of demographic catastrophe, and the impact of their economic behavior on the colonists. Although much of the research will include descriptive narrative, efforts will be made to address formally the questions of how extensive was indigenous market activity and how large was its effect on the life of the colonists.
Scholarship about the colonial economies in the New World has focused on the behavior of the colonists if for no other reason than that they were the agents who came to dominate the New World economies. In the process of establishing economic hegemony the colonists are seen as having driven out, or exterminated, or subjugated the indigenous peoples. The indigenous people are seen almost entirely as victims; and justifiably so. There is also no question that indigenous peoples throughout the New World suffered demographic catastrophes as a result of European contact, and scholars have provided abundant evidence for why this took place. But the tragedies need not mean that indigenous peoples should be regarded simply as victims in all regards. True they lost much of their land, and the demographic collapse may make it appear that their economies were not functioning and sustainable; but these are hardly reasons for ignoring their economies and excluding indigenous peoples from depictions of colonial economic development.
It is important that, as historians, we place indigenous peoples in their proper role as shapers, and not only victims, of the colonial experience. The unstated , but apparently, consensus view that indigenous peoples somehow do not fit into prevailing conceptions of economic development has not emerged from much formal analysis of their economies. To date, the limited attention to their economic behavior most likely reflects the fact that they left few documentary records, especially about economic activities; but historians and economists have long demonstrated that it is possible to draw meaningful inferences from even fleeting references and barely intelligible documents. Moreover, recent work indicates that some data are available, perhaps more than previously believed, that can enable scholars to measure, with some reliability, many aspects of the economies of indigenous peoples and how those economies changed over time.
The session which is intended to be a forum for the presentation and
critical discussion of case studies, as well as of comparative
investigations, based on a broad range of experiences.
We have already a small number of commitments to present papers, mostly about case studies in North America. We will have two 90 minute time slots for this topic, so we are looking for additional proposals particularly on South and Central America and other parts of the world.
Those interested should send an abstract of their proposed paper by Sept.1st, 2001 to one of the co-organizers listed below.
The complete paper should be sent to us, as an e-mail (Word) attachment and also on a floppy disk, preferably before February 1, 2002 but in any case not later than June 1, 2002. Any paper that will be ready in its final form before February 1, 2002, would be included in the official Congress CD. We shall inform you in due time about the submission details for inclusion in this CD.
Thomas Weiss Frank Lewis
Department of Economics Department of Economics
University of Kansas Queen's University
Lawrence, KS 66049 Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6
phone: (785) 864-2840 613-533-2290
fax: (785) 864-5270 613-533-6668
Department of Economics
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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