Before the Volunteer State
- Author(s): Ray, Kristofer, ed.
- Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
- Publication Date: 2015-02-27
- Status: Active
- Available in Hardcover - Cloth: Price $57.00 | Buy Now
Most general studies of Tennessee history begin with the arrival of Anglo-American settlers in the 1760s, with only a brief overview of the state’s “prehistory.” This welcome volume rethinks this narrative by placing Tennessee’s origins firmly in the seventeenth century. In ten thoughtful essays, scholars of trans-Appalachian and early American history address a number of issues that have been touched on only fleetingly within Tennessee historiography, including the dynamic balance of Native American concerns and European imperial interests, the complexity of Revolutionary-era struggles, and the associated challenges of jurisdiction, dominion, and identity formation. Collectively, the volume situates Tennessee more firmly within the context of regional, North American, and Atlantic World developments.
The essays are divided into two parts—the first focusing on the establishment and geopolitical complexities of seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century life in and around the Tennessee River, and the second exploring the effects of the American Revolution in this geopolitical space. Topics in Part One include Indian life in the late Mississippian era, how contact with Europeans forced a process of migration and change, European understanding of Cherokee strength, and the importance of the Creeks, Cherokees, and Shawnees to early Tennessee history. Part Two offers articles about the confusing milieu into which the region was thrown during the Revolution, the central role of kinship networks for both Indians and whites, and the difficulties of identity formation as Euro-Americans expanded their presence on the Tennessee frontier. The work concludes by addressing the issue of myth and memory and how early Tennessee history was overtaken by nineteenth-century historical narratives that continue to serve as the foundation for understanding the state.
Taken together, these essays provide a gateway through which to reimagine early Tennessee history—a reimagining that demonstrates the significance of the Volunteer State within broader trends in early modern, southern, trans-Appalachian, and Atlantic World history.
Kristofer Ray is senior editor of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly and an associate professor of early American history at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He is the author of Middle Tennessee, 1775–1825: Progress and Popular Democracy on the Southwestern Frontier.