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The Shaping of America: A Geographical…

The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of… (utgåvan 1986)

av D. W. Meinig (Författare)

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Volume one examines how an immense diversity of ethnic and religious groups ultimately created a set of distinct regional societies. Volume two emphasizes the flux, uncertainty, and unpredictablilty of the expansion into continental America, showing how a multitude of individuals confronted complex and problematic issues.… (mer)
Titel:The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 1: Atlantic America 1492-1800 (Shaping of America; A Geographical Perspective of 500 Years of History)
Författare:D. W. Meinig (Författare)
Info:Yale University Press (1986), Edition: 2nd prt., 522 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Taggar:hist, us


Atlantic America, 1492-1800 av D. W. Meinig



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1. America as a Continuation

Our theme is the creation of a vast Atlantic circuit, a new human network of point and passages binding together four continents, three races, and a great diversity of regional parts. (p. 3)

It was in thanksgiving for the fall of Granada that Queen Isabella of Spain equipped Christopher Columbus' expedition. In the broad view casts the "first Spanish and Portuguese, French and English explorers, conquerors, and settlers as the vanguard of a common movement, the cutting edge of a powerful Romano-Germanic Christian culture that had burst upon the World Ocean and would eventually bring the coastlines of every continent under siege." (p. 4) Taking the entire North Atlantic littoral as a point of focus, Meinig points to an Atlantic Fishery in the North stretching from Iceland to the Grand Banks. Without strong resistance, Europeans could set up a a trading post or an exploration base along this littoral, but much greater effort would be required for colonization. Meinig poses three levels of European involvement - seafaring, conquering and planting. Each requiring greater resources and efforts on the part of Europeans.

2. Iberian Initiatives

Columbus represents the seafaring stage of development, as he never actually laid the grounds for conquest. The Iberians had, however, successfully combined seafaring, conquering and planting in the Canary Islands, which served as a model for further expansion. Arriving in 1502 with 2,500 men, Nicholas de Ovando became the principal architect of the encomienda system which moved Hispaniola quickly from conquest to planting. Belatedly, the Portuguese developed Brazil in the latter half of the 16th C, as more fruitful enterprises in Africa delayed a focus on that new land.

3. The Creation of New Spain

Hernando Cortez's discovery of the Aztecs in 1519 was the real discovery of America. It was at this point that the real conquest of the New World began and proceeded very much along the lines of the Romans subduing the diverse Greeks. In a manner which Alfred Crosby has called swarming, the Iberians migrated to the New Spain and transformed the agricultural landscape with European wheat and barley, but also with the importation of European cattle, sheep, swine, horses, burrows and mules. But the planting of New Spain was more than this, it was also and exercise in governmental engineering:

... New Spain, that great Mexican portion of Spanish America, was much more than a superimposition of Spaniards upon a decapitated Aztec empire. It was a new creation resulting from the forceful application of a sharply honed and simplified imperial system to the programmatic reshaping of a highly developed civilization. (p. 16)

The Spanish were forging unity out of diversity in New Spain.

9. Generalizations: Sectors and Circuits of the Atlantic World

Meinig points to the creation of two Axes of Exploration, one a fisheries axis in the north and another a southern tropical axis. The importance of the former has largely been under appreciated. Harvesting the wealth of the Grand Fishery was a massive undertaking involving Europeans in the Atlantic World long before the Puritans reached Plymouth Colony.

Thus, when we begin to assess the creation of America in its proper Atlantic context, we see not only Newfoundland and New France but New England and New Netherlands, all the many beginnings from Hudson Bay to the Delaware, as integral parts of a North America, which in some degree an emanation from the old annual harvest of the northern seas. (p. 58)

The Southern circuit, based largely on the pattern of trade winds, brought European manufacutres to the Iberian colonies and treasures from the colonies back to Iberia. The ships traveling along this southern axis proved to be temptations to piracy for the English, French and Dutch. The Dutch arose as the major contenders with the Iberians for control of the commerce of the Atlantic trade. Modeling their network upon Mediterranean models, the Dutch proved very efficient.

The middle area, between the Northern and Southern Atlantic circuits remained untapped at 1630. It was not until Europeans sought social mobility by migrating to that area that the area came under the Neo-European sway. Below and above this area, there was a focus on quick profits (and indeed this is how the Virginia Company initially approached Jamestown as well). Imperial competition, however, proceeded apace in the Northern and Southern circuits. In the North, competition over fisheries drove conflict between Fr and English. In the Southern circuit, Dutch, French and English all made colonizing the Caribbean Island a greater or lesser priority as they moved to found their own versions of tropical planter societies. Much like the Mediterranean Sea was to civilization in the past, the Atlantic Ocean had become a new Mediterranean for Europe by 1630.

10. Generalizations: Geographic Models of Interaction

Describes thickening strands that connected Old and New Worlds, ultimately leading to a growing network of increasing capacity. In developing these networks Meinig attempts to create models for various stages of the process. Talks about slave trading networks in this context as well. The end result of this networking was the development of a World System, with the colonies at the periphery producing raw materials to be shipped back to the metropolitan center in Northeastern Europe. Finished goods were then shipped back to colonial markets on the periphery from the metropolitan center.

15. Encounter and Exchange: Europeans and Indians

Leaning on Francis Jennings's account of the "Invasion of America," Meinig sketches the macroencounter moving from initial contact, through depopulation and later stabilization, and finally ending with stable large societies in which the indigenes are reduced to marginalized subcultures.

Viewed broadly, the most obvious variations were more longitudinal than latitudinal: gradations inland reflecting the relative impact of this great encounter. Thus we can readily recognize a coastal zone of conquest and encapsulation, a second zone (partially costal, mostly inland) of articulation and interdependence, and a third zone deeper in the interior beyond sustained massive contact but markedly affected by it. Each of these zones had its special kind of geography, history and portent in European-Indian relations. (p. 208)

In this second zone of articulation and interdependence, the interchange was more equal than in the first. Centered around Montreal, Albany, Charles Town and Mobile, the complex cultural and economic interactions were distinctive in that they afforded greater power to the native populations because of the need for Europeans on the periphery to enter into reciprocal relationships and win the support of native peoples. In the American south, this lead to a wide range of frontier regions where "a complex mixing of Indians, Africans and Europeans was widely evident ... Thus by 1750 a considerable if never definable portion of the population of subtropical America was racially mixed ..." (p. 210) As Ira Berlin has pointed out, this zone afforded greater freedom to persons of mixed race in assuming roles as leaders and as intermediaries.

In the third zone, we find the domain of European traders who opened up trading operations with Indians by moving deep into the interior. The impact on Indian tribes caused by the greater demand for furs to trade with the Europeans included increased mobility for tribes, more work for the female Indians in the preparing of hides, shifting inter-tribal power alignments, etc. as each vied with the other for European trade.

Was progression from zone three, through two and on to one historically determined? Perhaps, but the progression from zone to zone - as well as the activity within those zones - was far more complicated than a "march of civilization" approach would allow. Indeed, the Europeans and Indians entered into symbiotic relationships throughout. Quoting Jennings again, he concludes by noting that Neo-European civilization in North America owes its very existence to this symbiotic relationship. Amerindians continue to deal with this reality even today.
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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Volume one examines how an immense diversity of ethnic and religious groups ultimately created a set of distinct regional societies. Volume two emphasizes the flux, uncertainty, and unpredictablilty of the expansion into continental America, showing how a multitude of individuals confronted complex and problematic issues.

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