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Revolutionary Negotiations

Indians, Empires, and Diplomats in the Founding of America
Leonard J. Sadosky

BUY Cloth · 296 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813928647 · $44.00 · Jan 2010
BUY Ebook · 296 pp. · ISBN 9780813928708 · $44.00 · Jan 2010

Revolutionary Negotiations examines early American diplomatic negotiations with both the European powers and the various American Indian nations from the 1740s through the 1820s. Sadosky interweaves previously distinct settings for American diplomacy—courts and council fires—into one singular, transatlantic system of politics.

Whether as provinces in the British Empire or as independent states, American assertions of power were directed simultaneously to the west and to the east—to Native American communities and to European empires across the Atlantic. American leaders aspired to equality with Europeans, who often dismissed them, while they were forced to concede agency to Native Americans, whom they often wished they could ignore. As Americans used diplomatic negotiation to assert their new nation's equality with the great powers of Europe and gradually defined American Indian nations as possessing a different (and lesser) kind of sovereignty, they were also forced to confront the relations between the states in their own federal union.

Acts of diplomacy thus defined the founding of America, not only by drawing borders and facilitating commerce, but also by defining and constraining sovereign power in a way that privileged some and weakened others. These negotiations truly were revolutionary.


Sadosky's achievement in this outstanding work is to cast an altogether fresh light on the early diplomacy of the United States, in which were mingled closely together the imperatives of constructing union among the thirteen states and conducting diplomacy with European and Indian nations. With equal parts attention to inner travails of the union and the diplomacy of its eastern and western borders, we gain a portrait of the relationship among these spheres that is very original and convincing.

David Hendrickson, Colorado College · co-author of The Imperial Temptation: The New World Order and America's Purpose

By joining diplomatic history to Native American history Sadosky compels us to change the way we think about both subjects. He also offers us a wonderful narrative that we can assign to our students. If one measure of the importance of a young scholar is the way it changes how we think about the past, and our use of the scholar's book in class, then I would include Sadosky in a group of a handful of historians from his generation who will have a large impact on the field of early American history.

Paul A. Gilje, George Lynn Cross Research Professor, University of Oklahoma

About the Author(s): 

Leonard J. Sadosky is Assistant Professor of History at Iowa State University and co-author, with Peter Onuf, of Jeffersonian America.

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