Colin G. Calloway. New Worlds For All: Indians, Europeans and the Remaking of Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. xxi + 229 pp. $14.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8018-5959-5.
Reviewed by Philip A. Korth (Michigan State University)
Published on H-Ethnic (April, 1998)
Most books today fill out the landscape or shine light into the dark interstices of existing paradigms. A few take the reader on a journey guided by a new map. A very few provide a reader a new atlas informed by new perspectives and new information. Colin G. Calloway's New Worlds For All synthesizes the recent work of ethno-historians and historians of the colonial period into a coherent and convincing, new historical and cultural atlas of the first three hundred years of contact between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of North America. This book rewards the avocational historian who will find flashes of insight and interpretative brilliance in every one of the ten chapters. It also rewards the professional historian who will find in it linkages and evaluations that bring coherence to new historical research. It is a fine work, suited to a general audience, but most appropriate for any audience interested in historical interpretation.
The book is organized into ten thematic chapters which examine both ideas and practice in such diverse areas as medicine, warfare, theology, international relations, demographics, and ideology. Each area unfolds to show the interplay of culture, personality, and the land. Calloway marshals examples from a wide range of well know historian such as James Axtell, Bernard Bailyn, Jennifer S. H. Brown, James Clifton, Denys Delage, John Mark Faragher, Frederick Hoxie, Francis Jennings, Philip Morgan, Jacqueline Peterson, Margaret Szasz, Ruben Thwaites, Frederick Jackson Turner, and Richard White, to name only the most prominent. It concludes with an excellent bibliographic essay to guide readers on additional explorations into current scholarship.
A century ago, Franz Boas observed that when two cultures meet neither culture remains unchanged. The central point of Calloway's fine book demonstrates convincingly that historians should have attended to Boas all along, for the record of cultural borrowing, adapting, adopting, rejecting, modifying and creating that recent historians have identified adds a wonderful richness to our understanding of American culture. The historiographic tradition that favored tracking the triumph of European and then American culture over Indian cultures mapped at best only part of the terrain. Calloway corrects that imbalance offering a more complex and sophisticated analysis. He does so without feeling compelled to attack older historians and herein lies a significant virtue of the book: its tone. Calloway's voice is confident, but balanced. He resists overstatement, even dampening overstatement when he finds it in his sources. He resists taking gratuitous slaps at historians whose work seems now outdated, preferring rather to rescue elements of their work worth attending to now. In sum, this is a positive, moderately, even modestly stated account that convinces through solid example and clear detail gleaned from respected historians working on the cusp of modern scholarship of the first three centuries of European-Indian contacts. It is an impressive achievement.
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Philip A. Korth. Review of Calloway, Colin G., New Worlds For All: Indians, Europeans and the Remaking of Early America.
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