Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James Axtell


This dissertation is a comparative study of cultural relationships between European and Indian settler communities along the Six Nations' borders with New York and Pennsylvania from 1720 to 1780. It particularly examines "everyday encounters" between ordinary peoples---a dimension of colonial social and economic life that has usually escaped historians' attention. Palatine, Scots, Irish, Dutch, and English colonists not only lived close to Indian villages but also frequently interacted with Iroquois, Delawares, and other natives. Frontier farms, forts, churches, and taverns were scenes of frequent face-to-face meetings between colonists and Indians. My dissertation explores the dynamics of settler-Indian encounters and how they changed over time in the Mohawk, Susquehanna, and Ohio valleys. Ordinary people powerfully shaped the larger patterns of cultural contact through their routine negotiations.;The dissertation establishes a new vantage point by exploring northeastern North America as the "Iroquoian borderlands" rather than the Middle Colonies' frontiers. It also employs comparative history to highlight the structural similarities and differences of the Six Nations' borders with nearby colonies. Both Pennsylvania and New York enjoyed alliances with the Six Nations that sustained a period of peaceful relations in the eighteenth century. But Pennsylvania's settlement expansion sparked a triangular contest over land between natives, European squatters, and proprietors that resulted in open warfare and native dispossession by the 1750s.;New York enjoyed the longest span of peace with the native nations on its borders. In the Mohawk Valley, strong religious, economic, social, and military ties enabled Indian and colonial communities to coexist for most of the eighteenth century. It was not until the American Revolution that New York experienced the same racially charged warfare that Pennsylvania and other British colonies had experienced much earlier. The Revolution overturned the patterns of accommodation that prevailed between the Iroquois and the New York colonists. It uprooted the British-Iroquois alliance and led to dispossession for many Iroquois in punitive postwar treaties with the U.S. The comparative context more precisely reveals the means whereby the permeable Iroquoian borderlands of the early eighteenth century were transformed into juridically and racially defined state and national borders by the 1780s.



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