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Indigenous Peoples in the Global Revolutionary Era



Guest Editors: Christine Skwiot and Christoph Strobel


     Historians have long characterized the economic and political changes that swept across the globe and irrevocably transformed the world between the 1770s and the 1840s as the "Age of Revolutions." This era features prominently in world history textbook assigned to undergraduates across the United States and high school students in an ever-growing number of states. World history textbooks tend to focus on the story of political revolutions through an Atlantic World narrative, which moves from the "thirteen British colonies" in North America to France, to Haiti, to Latin America; although historians have also recently attempted to set the subject into a global framework, their work has not yet changed the way most of us teach our world history surveys.1

     The articles in our forum do not systematically place themselves into either an Atlantic world or a global context. Instead, by aiming their analysis on indigenous peoples, these articles offer some new perspectives to world historians, teachers, and students on how to complicate our understanding and thinking about the Age of Revolutions in world history. Indeed, an era so often associated with empire breaking was, of course, simultaneously one of empire making. As the late C.A. Bayly observed decades ago, European imperial expansion during the Age of Revolutions engendered the "creation of 'indigenous peoples' as a series of comparable categories across the globe."2 More recently, inspired by Daniel K. Richter, who famously faced east to write Native-centered histories of European expansion in North America, Michael A. McDonnell and Kate Fullagar have called upon historians of the Atlantic, the Pacific, and beyond to "face empire" so as to explore the myriad ways that "indigenous peoples changed the nature and purpose of European empires at this critical juncture."3 As the pieces below underscore, indigenous peoples at home and abroad, free and enslaved, sovereign and colonized, played complex and multifaceted roles in this period of history that defy easy characterization. By focusing our analysis on indigenous peoples that historians of the Age of Revolutions often neglect in their research and teaching, the contributors to this forum complicate our understanding of this period.


1 For a recent comparative synthesis of the history of the revolutionary Atlantic, see Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (New York: New York University Press, 2009); on efforts to globalize the history of the Age of Revolutions, see C.A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780–1914 (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2004) and David Armitage and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, eds., The Age of Revolutions in Global Context, c.1760–1840 (New York: Palgrave, 2010).

2 C.A. Bayly, "British and Indigenous Peoples," in M.J. Daunton and R. Halpern, eds., Empire and Others: British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples, 1600–1850 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999) 21.

3 Daniel K. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); Michael A. McDonnell and Kate Fullagar, "Facing Empire: Indigenous experiences of European empire in comparative Perspective, 17601820," in The Routledge History of Western Empires, eds. Robert Aldrich and Kirsten McKenzie (New York: Routledge, 2014), 5971, 60, 61.

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