An Empire of Small Places

Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732-1795

By Robert Paulett

From The University of Georgia Press

264 pp /6.0 x9.0 / 14 b&w photos / 2012

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Britain's colonial empire in southeastern North America relied on the cultivation and maintenance of economic and political ties with the numerous powerful Indian confederacies of the region. Those ties in turn relied on British traders adapting to Indian ideas of landscape and power. In An Empire of Small Places, Robert Paulett examines this interaction over the course of the eighteenth century, drawing attention to the ways that conceptions of space competed, overlapped, and changed. He encourages us to understand the early American South as a landscape made by interactions among American Indians, European Americans, and enslaved African American laborers.

Focusing especially on the Anglo-Creek-Chickasaw route that ran from the coast through Augusta to present-day Mississippi and Tennessee, Paulett finds that the deerskin trade produced a sense of spatial and human relationships that did not easily fit into Britain's imperial ideas and thus forced the British to consciously articulate what made for a proper realm. He develops this argument in chapters about five specific kinds of places: the imagined spaces of British maps and the lived spaces of the Savannah River, the town of Augusta, traders' paths, and trading houses. In each case, the trade's practical demands privileged Indian, African, and nonelite European attitudes toward place. After the Revolution, the new United States created a different model for the Southeast that sought to establish a new system of Indian-white relationships oriented around individual neighborhoods.

Reviews & Quotes

"In this interesting and engaging book, Paulett contributes to important conversations about eighteenth-century colonialism and Indian–European relations."
— Joshua Piker, author of Okfuskee: A Creek Indian Town in Colonial America

"This is an important and insightful analysis of the development of colonial Augusta, the Indian trade, and the geography of the Southeast. Paulett convincingly demonstrates how the region was transformed geographically from a world where Natives and newcomers understood that they were interconnected by a series of paths to one where they believed they lived in discrete neighborhoods. This ideological and physical transformation has tremendous explanatory value and will be of interest to historians of the early South, Native Americans, urban America, and the frontier in general."
— Andrew K. Frank, author of Creeks and Southerners: Biculturalism on the Early American Frontier

About Robert Paulett

Robert Paulett is an assistant professor of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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"The Early American Places series is an exciting development in scholarly publishing, one that will highlight the most important part of the study of history: the local and particular dimensions of global issues and trends. This is where the rubber meets the road, where ordinary people's lives help to make, and are made by, the bustling wider world in which they live. Early American Places is an original series, and it will publish important scholarship."

— Stephanie M. H. Camp, University of Washington