Negotiating settlement: Colonialism, cultural exchange, and conflict in early colonial Atlantic North America, 1580--1660

Date of Completion

January 1998


History, United States|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Sociology, Social Structure and Development




This study focuses on contacts between and among English, Dutch, and Swedish colonists, Native Americans and Diaspora Africans along the Atlantic Coast. It explores some of the earliest roots of multi-ethnic contact and exchange in colonial North America and argues that contestation and cross-cultural relationships played a crucially important role in shaping peoples' experiences, as well as their understanding of those experiences. Because power shifted often, and no one held power unopposed or for long, cross-cultural and inter-colonial contacts were more extensive and more important than we have understood in shaping the early colonial world.^ Using insights from the history of cartography and cultural geography, the study explores mapping as a tool of cross-cultural communication and contestation. It considers mapping literally as geographical map-making, and metaphorically as a means of conceptualizing and organizing relationships between cultures. The study also examines several powerful multi-ethnic and cross-cultural alliances and argues that Native Americans experimented with colonial forms during this early period, before European colonies were firmly and permanently established, and it also examines conflict among Europeans for colonial territory and over competing visions of colonialism. Furthermore, "Negotiating Settlement" argues that Africans were able to create a diaspora community and to challenge colonial authority in New Netherland in limited though important ways despite conditions of enslavement.^ Historians have traditionally divided Atlantic North America into three distinct regions: the Chesapeake, the Mid-Atlantic, and New England, and most studies focus on only one colony or region. However, interactions which were not contained within the boundaries of a single colony or region too often fall out of the picture in studies with a narrower field of focus. Thus, "Negotiating Settlement" ranges from the Chesapeake to New England and includes areas within each of these traditional regions. Moreover, the extent of contestation emerges more fully not only when we erase the anachronistic territorial boundaries imposed on the early colonial era by historians, but also when we include peoples who have been relegated to the margins in studies limited by the boundaries of traditional American historiography. ^