Valley of Opportunity
Economic Culture along the Upper Susquehanna, 1700–1800
Published by: Cornell University Press
272 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 16.00 mm, 6 maps
- ISBN: 9780801477164
- Published: April 2011
Valley of Opportunity recreates an age when Indians, colonists, and post-Revolutionary settlers embraced a similar dream: to create a successful economy in the rural hinterland of the middle colonies. Peter C. Mancall draws on abundant evidence from seldom-used archives in the region, as well as from libraries on both sides of the Atlantic, to reconstruct their daily economic life.
The author describes the varied economic transformations that took place in the area, considering these changes from an environmental as well as an economic standpoint. He shows how different groups of people perceived the resources of the region and how their perceptions shaped settlement patterns, land use, and the formation of commercial networks. Ultimately, each of the three peoples looked beyond the mountains that set the boundaries of their physical world and tried to establish ties to the larger commercial network that linked North America to Europe.
Mancall offers connections between the development of a particular region, previously
overlooked by most historians, and the wide pattern of American economic change. He breaks through old ethnocentric barriers of settlement history by portraying Indian people in their full diversity and by including Indians and whites as actors of comparable significance, and he shows how attitudes that developed in the colonial period affected economic patterns well beyond the Revolution. Integrating a range of disciplines, from anthropology through ecology and geography to zoology, he seeks to answer the questions: what did different groups of people make of the natural resources of this river valley and how did they allocate the rewards? His answers provide a novel overview of the economic culture of the eighteenth century.
Studded with sharp insights and attention-catching quotations that mirror everyday life of the times, Valley of Opportunity will appeal to those interested in the development of the American economy, the impact of the Revolution on urban Americans, and the relations between the peoples who together created a vibrant world along the edges of European settlement in North America.
1. The Physical World
2. The Susquehanna Indians
3. Indian-Colonist Trade
4. The Collapse of Intercultural Trade
5. The Colonists' Economy
6. The War in the Valley
7. Postwar Economic Development
Conclusion: The Economic Culture of the Revolutionary BackcountryAppendix
"Valley of Opportunity is an important book. Like the region it analyzes, it moves across boundaries, providing new vistas while connecting arbitrarily divided terrains."~Journal of American History
"Mancall merits commendation for his attention to ecological as well as economic revolutions, his incorporation of Indians into the transition question, and his reminder that conquest left a continental legacy."~Western Historical Quarterly
"Mancall shows how valley residents tied themselves into the commercial network that linked North America to Europe. Some people prospered in this valley of opportunity, many did not, and their fates often were determined less by their own endeavors than by the forces of the Atlantic economy that reached into their world."~Ethnohistory
"Mancall's central argument is that the 'economic culture’ of the backcountry was shaped by a complex interaction of physical environ- ments, local societies, and powerful developers—an encounter decided on the terms of the latter group, the agents of the greater Atlantic economy. Mancall’s is a sober and sobering thesis, underscoring the power of capital on the eighteenth-century frontier."~William and Mary Quarterly