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Commerce and Imagination in America’s Indian Trade

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Chapter Summary

By the eighteenth century, Europe's widening commercial activities laid the basis for a robust intellectual infrastructure to both sustain and justify its growing trading relations abroad. The widening impact of commercial capital and opened floodgates of material goods into the overseas trade coincided with a consumer revolution at home. This chapter examines European concern, and at times, fascination, with trade and exchange in early America. However, it attempts to engage a fresh historical analysis in a field often given over to literary and discourse probing. The chapter takes inspiration in the work of anthropologist Neil Whitehead who attempted to recover not only European mindsets behind texts, but, beyond them, the "native tropes" that mix with them. Whitehead's work opens up rich possibilities for the historical analysis of this topic, unearthing "con-texts" that are specific to time periods and situation.

Keywords: America; commercial activities; Europe; Indian trade; Neil Whitehead



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