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Book Review


Gallay, Alan. The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717 (New Haven and London: Yale University, 2002). 480 pp, $35.00.

      As an instructor of world and Native American history, I work against perpetuating the myth that Native American slavery played a rather insignificant role in the history of the Western Hemisphere. When I was a student, for example, I was told that Amerindians, when forced by Europeans to work on plantations and in mines, died of disease and were quickly replaced by slaves from Africa. Furthermore, I learned that Native Americans, when captured, had better chances to run away due to their familiarity with their surroundings. Only in my advanced studies did I realize that this was an oversimplified version of the history of the Western Hemisphere. As a teacher I am always looking for better ways to present the complexities of Native American slavery. 1
     I was excited to learn about Alan Gallay's monograph, The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717, especially as I began reading the introduction, which states that the study is set in a larger world historical context. As I continued reading, though, I grew somewhat disappointed. Certainly, instructors of world history will be able to use The Indian Slave Trade to draw comparisons and make connections with other global empires, coercive labor systems, and areas of cross-cultural encounters. But Galy does not develop such connections and comparisons. Furthermore, many instructors of world history will find Gallay's discussion of the geopolitics of the British Empire too peripheral and undeveloped. While the book does an excellent job discussing local developments in what we today call the U.S. South, Gallay could have expanded his analysis of global processes. 2
    Even so, within its boundaries of place and time, Gallay's book is an impressive tour de force. Even though The Indian Slave Trade focuses on the English colony of Carolina, Gallay extends his study into many corners of the South. Due to this ambitious agenda, The Indian Slave Trade counteracts the splintering effect noticeable in the historiography of the South, which is so often concerned with isolated case studies focused on narrow aspects of British, French, and Spanish empires, or of Native American and African American history. Gallay uses on sources in English, French, and Spanish, and employs methodologies drawn from ethnohistory, anthropology, and archeology. All this persuades him "that the drive to control Indian labor – which extended to every nook and cranny of the South – was inextricably connected to the growth of the plantations and that the trade in Indian slaves was at the center of the English empire's development in the American South. The trade in Indian slaves was the most important factor effecting the South in the period 1679 to 1715: its impact was felt from Arkansas to the Carolinas and south to the Florida Keys." Thus, Gallay suggests that we should consider the Native American experience alongside that of Africans to understand the emergence of racial slavery in the South. 3
     To weaken their imperial competitors, English Carolinians and their Native American supporters attacked such Spanish and French allies as Florida's Timucuan. White Carolinians quickly "learned that they could make greater profits by attacking and enslaving their European foe's indigenous allies than by assaulting the French and the Spanish directly." For much of the Carolinas' early history, the Native American slave trade was a lucrative business, one which forced thousands of Amerindian men, women, and children out of their homelands, and into a life of forced labor. Gallay emphasizes the complexity of these cross-cultural encounters. Amerindian participated as active players in the capture and sale of peoples they considered enemies. At the same time, Gallay notes that European survival in the region depended on alliances with Native Americans. 4
     Few newly enslaved Amerndians stayed in the Carolinas. Most were sold to Barbados, New England and other locations in British North America to join others of Amerindian and African origin on plantations and farms. These connections to other parts of the plantation system of the English Empire, which would be of particular interest to instructors of world history, are unfortunately not explored much further.  5
     It is only in chapter eleven that Gallay discusses the Indian slave trade itself in some detail. This chapter will be useful to teachers of world history. Gallay argues that the British in Carolina and their native allies captured 30,000 to 50,000 Amerindians for sale. Thus, prior to 1715, the British in Carolina exported more slaves than they imported. Readers will find particularly useful a table on page 299 that provides detailed information on the numbers of captured Amerindians from the southeastern Woodlands. Still, instructors of world history would have probably wanted Gallay to develop further the global, comparative, and trans-colonial implications of this trade and how it fits into the history of forced labor systems and Atlantic World colonization. 6
Christopher Strobel
University of Massachusetts Lowell

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