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Authors: Grindon, Blake
Advisors: BlaakmanBell, MichaelDavid A.A.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: American Revolution
Burgoyne Campaign
Jane McCrea
Native American History
Subjects: American history
Military history
Native American studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: “The Death of Jane McCrea: Sovereignty and Violence in the Northeastern Borderlands of the American Revolution” examines a single woman’s death to illuminate evolving ideas of race, legitimate violence, and sovereignty in the era of the American Revolution. Jane McCrea was a White colonist killed by Native allies of the British in 1777, near Fort Edward, New York. Her death quickly became a cause célèbre, taken up by Patriots in anti-Indian and anti-British propaganda. In this dissertation, I argue that McCrea’s death and mythologization substantially shaped the racialization of Indigenous practices of warfare to the benefit of the United States. Utilizing visual and material as well as textual sources, I recover the story of the historical woman behind the myth of Jane McCrea, and place her and her family in the context of a borderland defined by deep histories of Indigenous and Euro-imperial competition, warfare and intercultural exchange. Moreover, I explore the politics of Wabanaki, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe participation in the Revolutionary War, revealing that Native nations were major players in Atlantic diplomacy and uncovering the fraught relationship between Native warriors and British commanders such as John Burgoyne. Examining the circumstances of McCrea’s death shows that the Burgoyne campaign’s most famous casualty was but one incident amid conflicts between Native warriors and imperial soldiers over waging war and wielding sovereign political power. Finally, this dissertation traces McCrea’s many and surprising afterlives, not only in Patriot propaganda but also in art, literature, British politics, and French imperial discourse. Drawing on scholarship on the international dimensions of the American Revolution, as well as recent histories of Native America, I argue that by undermining Native American sovereignty, the U.S. was able to bolster its political legitimacy. McCrea’s death symbolized violations of Enlightenment rules of warfare that Patriots attributed to Native Americans, and by extension, their British allies. This justified war against both imperial authority and Native nations. Euro-Americans’ fixation on Indigenous people’s supposed predilection for uncontrolled violence racialized Native Americans and served to overshadow their contributions to political discourse in the eighteenth-century Atlantic, and to undermine Native nations in the global political landscape.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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