The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815
by Richard White
The Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma book discussion series at Oklahoma City University will return in September with the theme The American Frontier: A Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series. The discussions are held in Walker Center room 151, located near the center of campus at N.W. 26th Street and Florida Avenue.
This Fall’s program begins Tuesday, September 12 with “The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815” by Richard White. White’s 1991 study offers an alternative to the traditional interpretations of Fredrick Jackson Turner’s late 19th-century “Frontier Hypothesis” with his approach to “The New Western History.” His purpose is to examine Indian/white relations within the context of accommodation and common purpose rather than conquest and assimilation.
The series theme features five Pulitzer Prize-nominated or -winning books that explore the concept of the frontier in the United States. Turner, a young historian at the University of Wisconsin, offered a new interpretation of American History: The Frontier Hypothesis. He asserted the single most important feature of American national development was the westward movement of Anglo American civilization from the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Turner believed this “Frontier” or “Wilderness Experience” produced uniquely American characteristics because settlers constantly rebuilt their institutions as they moved west, each time reducing the influence of their European background. Prior to Turner’s Frontier Hypothesis, historians regarded American development as guided by the unaltered transfer of institutions from Western Europe.
Although some authors do not embrace all of the Frontier Hypothesis, readers should be able to detect some of Turner’s ideas in the pages of these works. Each of them deals with a significant element of settling the region west of the Appalachian Mountains. Each of the books describes a time period crucial to expansion, and all of the narratives include the role of the individual in this process. European government agents, U.S. officials, backwoods settlers, tribal leaders, women both Indian and non-Indian, emigrants, speculators, and a cavalcade of well-known as well as not-so-well-known characters portray their experience on the frontier.
At each session in the five-part series, a humanities scholar makes a presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussions follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, all participants come together for a brief wrap-up.
Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to preregister and borrow the reading selections by dropping by the Dulaney-Browne Library room 207.
* Sep. 26, Across the Wide Missouri by Bernard DeVoto
* Oct. 10, The Way West by A.B. Guthrie
* Oct. 24, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir by Linnie Marsh Wolfe
* Nov. 7, The Son by Philipp Meyer
The series is made possible through a grant from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities with funding from the Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative.