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Brothers Born of One Mother

British–Native American Relations in the Colonial Southeast
Michelle LeMaster

BUY Cloth · 304 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813932415 · $43.50 · May 2012
BUY Ebook · 304 pp. · ISBN 9780813932422 · $43.50 · May 2012

The arrival of English settlers in the American Southeast in 1670 brought the British and the Native Americans into contact both with foreign peoples and with unfamiliar gender systems. In a region in which the balance of power between multiple players remained uncertain for many decades, British and Native leaders turned to concepts of gender and family to create new diplomatic norms to govern interactions as they sought to construct and maintain working relationships. In Brothers Born of One Mother, Michelle LeMaster addresses the question of how differing cultural attitudes toward gender influenced Anglo-Indian relations in the colonial Southeast.

As one of the most fundamental aspects of culture, gender had significant implications for military and diplomatic relations. Understood differently by each side, notions of kinship and proper masculine and feminine behavior wielded during negotiations had the power to either strengthen or disrupt alliances. The collision of different cultural expectations of masculine behavior and men's relationships to and responsibilities for women and children became significant areas of discussion and contention. Native American and British leaders frequently discussed issues of manhood (especially in the context of warfare), the treatment of women and children, and intermarriage. Women themselves could either enhance or upset relations through their active participation in diplomacy, war, and trade.

Leaders invoked gendered metaphors and fictive kinship relations in their discussions, and by evaluating their rhetoric, Brothers Born of One Mother investigates the intercultural conversations about gender that shaped Anglo-Indian diplomacy. LeMaster's study contributes importantly to historians’ understanding of the role of cultural differences in intergroup contact and investigates how gender became part of the ideology of European conquest in North America, providing a unique window into the process of colonization in America.


Michelle LeMaster has written the definitive study of gender, sexuality, and kinship among Indian and Anglo-American people in the colonial South. Thoroughly researched and full of original insights, Brothers Born of One Mother braids together Native American history and gender history to bring the history of the colonial southeastern borderlands to life.

Ann M. Little, Colorado State University, author of Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England

Brothers Born of One Mother succeeds better than any other book presently available in highlighting the importance and role of gender—both as a category of analysis and as lived experience—as American Indians and the English encountered and lived with each other in the Southeast prior to the American Revolution. Moving beyond boundaries of tribe and colony, this work accomplishes a major step forward in our understanding of the southeastern colonial gender frontier.

Greg O’Brien, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, author of Choctaws in a Revolutionary Age, 1750–1830

About the Author: 

Michelle LeMaster is Assistant Professor of History at Lehigh University.

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