Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Brett Rushforth

Committee Member

Andrew Fisher

Committee Member

Fabricio Prado

Committee Member

Denise Bossy


This dissertation reevaluates the consequences of the American Revolution by examining how indigenous peoples preserved their role as regional powers in the decades following the birth of the United States. Focusing on the Creek Indians of the present-day southeastern United States, I demonstrate that they maintained ties with Britons, Spaniards, and other Native peoples, employing these connections to their advantage. Creeks created borderlands that connected their societies with those of the British and Spanish Caribbean. The Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida and their surrounding waters became zones of encounter and exchange between Native peoples, British wreckers from the Bahamas, and Spanish fishermen from Cuba. The networks created through these borderlands show that many elements of colonial-era diplomacy, where Native peoples held significant power in relationships with Europeans and Euroamericans, continued in force well after American independence. Creek diplomacy during this era engaged with European international law and concepts of nationhood in ways that compare to and were in dialogue with the efforts of the United States. Both Creeks and Americans sought to negotiate as unitary nations because the international order of their era demanded it. Each consisted of disparate peoples who had little sense of common interest or cohesion prior to the mid-eighteenth century. Creeks identified as members of towns and clans rather than as a singular nation. Any political unity between the Creek towns developed only in response to challenges presented by European colonization. Likewise, Americans identified more with their home states or local communities than the nation as a whole. Over the course of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, both Creeks and Americans struggled to find ways to balance local interests with the diplomatic needs created by the Atlantic community to which they belonged. In this sense, Creek diplomacy was decidedly modern and conversant with legal and political developments throughout the Atlantic world.




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