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The Backcountry and the City

Colonization and Conflict in Early America

2005
Author:

Edward White

The Backcountry and the City

Calls for the rural electrification of early American studies

What would an account of early America look like if it were based on examining rural insurrections instead of urban republican literature? Offering a new interpretation of eighteenth-century America, Ed White focuses on the agrarian majority as distinct from the urban minority. Using historical and ethnographic sources to enrich familiar texts, White demonstrates the importance of rural areas in the study of U.S. nation formation.

A compelling new way to look at the frontier in eighteenth-century America—historically rigorous and theoretically sophisticated.

Gordon M. Sayre, author of The Indian Chief as Tragic Hero: Native Resistance and the Literatures of America, from Moctezuma to Tecumseh

What would an account of early America look like if it were based on examining rural insurrections or Native American politics instead of urban republican literature? Offering a new interpretation of eighteenth-century America, The Backcountry and the City focuses on the agrarian majority as distinct from the elite urban minority.

Ed White explores the backcountry-city divide as well as the dynamics of indigenous peoples, bringing together two distinct bodies of scholarship: one stressing the political culture of the Revolutionary era, the other taking an ethnohistorical view of white–Native American contact. White concentrates his study in Pennsylvania, a state in which the majority of the population was rural, and in Philadelphia, a city that was a center of publishing and politics and the national capital for a decade. Against this backdrop, White reads classic political texts, such as Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer, Franklin’s Autobiography, and Paine’s “Agrarian Justice,” alongside missionary and captivity narratives, farmers’s petitions, and Native American treaties. Using historical and ethnographic sources to enrich familiar texts, White demonstrates the importance of rural areas in the study of U.S. nation formation and finds unexpected continuities between the early colonial period and the federal ascendancy of the 1790s.

The Backcountry and the City

Ed White is associate professor of English at the University of Florida.

The Backcountry and the City

A compelling new way to look at the frontier in eighteenth-century America—historically rigorous and theoretically sophisticated.

Gordon M. Sayre, author of The Indian Chief as Tragic Hero: Native Resistance and the Literatures of America, from Moctezuma to Tecumseh

Demostrates the reciprocal influence of Native American and white ensembles, arguing persuasively that 'federalism' emerged well before the revolution in urban-imperial elites's attempts to manage backcountry populations.

Timothy Sweet, West Virginia University

White’s new book opens up new interpretive horizons. Scholars of early America will find this study well worth their consideration.

American Literature

White’s thinking is unfailingly fresh and challenging. . . . White’s book offers a transformative view of the deep impulsions of American life and of a politics that persists.

American Historical Review

The sweep of the text is admirable and engaging. White’s text will stand as a scholarly point of departure in the years to come.

Studies in American Indian Literatures

The Backcountry and the City

Contents

Preface: Feelings of Structure in Early America
Acknowledgments

1. Divides
2. Seriality
3. Fusion
4. Institution

Conclusion: Toward an Antifederalist Criticism

Notes

Index