Abstract and Keywords
Scholars often portray indigenous peoples' interactions with the Atlantic world in linear terms: European expansion engulfed native communities and enslaves them to a global capitalist system. The mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, however, tells a more complicated tale. By the 1750s, many native peoples had learnt from decades of experience how to engage the Atlantic world on their own varied terms, often to their own advantage. Those engagements were disrupted by the British, French, and Spanish imperial crises spawned by the Seven Years War and especially by the creole independence movements born during those crises. The process worked out differently north and south of the Rio Grande, but, throughout the Americas, the collapse of European empires severed connections that had once guaranteed indigenous autonomy. If balance was the principle of ‘modern Indian politics’, trade was its glue. Throughout the Americas, creoles who proclaimed themselves civilised arrogated to themselves the terms on which native peoples could, or could not, engage with the Atlantic world.
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