Empires, Nations, and Families


Empires, Nations, and Families

A History of the North American West, 1800-1860

Anne F. Hyde

History of the American West Series

648 pages
43 illustrations, 12 maps


July 2011


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Winner of the 2012 Bancroft Prize in American History
Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in History

To most people living in the West, the Louisiana Purchase made little difference: the United States was just another imperial overlord to be assessed and manipulated. This was not, as Empires, Nations, and Families makes clear, virgin wilderness discovered by virtuous Anglo entrepreneurs. Rather, the United States was a newcomer in a place already complicated by vying empires. This book documents the broad family associations that crossed national and ethnic lines and that, along with the river systems of the trans-Mississippi West, formed the basis for a global trade in furs that had operated for hundreds of years before the land became part of the United States.
Empires, Nations, and Families shows how the world of river and maritime trade effectively shifted political power away from military and diplomatic circles into the hands of local people. Tracing family stories from the Canadian North to the Spanish and Mexican borderlands and from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Anne F. Hyde’s narrative moves from the earliest years of the Indian trade to the Mexican War and the gold rush era. Her work reveals how, in the 1850s, immigrants to these newest regions of the United States violently wrested control from Native and other powers, and how conquest and competing demands for land and resources brought about a volatile frontier culture—not at all the peace and prosperity that the new power had promised.

Author Bio

Anne F. Hyde is a professor of history at Colorado College. She is the author of An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture and coauthor, with William Deverell, of The West in the History of the Nation.


"Hyde weaves her stories together to create a solid and provocative argument in Empires, Nations, and Families, a book that is not only well researched and presented but instantly absorbing."—Adrienne Caughfield, Journal of American History

"Students of the Great Plains and the nineteenth-century West in general, at whatever level, will be well rewarded by a reading of Anne Hyde's fine book."—Walter Nugent, Great Plains Quarterly

 "Hyde's volume is a superb telling of a tale familiar to students of the American West but presented in a new, enlivening manner that will make readers remember why they love frontier American history so very much."—Patricia Ann Owens, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“The nuanced and complex narrative contextualizes the experiences of individuals, families, and communities. . . . Taking a unique approach that emphasizes the importance of family networks and integrating a newer generation of scholarship to explain the social and cultural dynamics of the West, Hyde has produced a substantial and highly original interpretation of the period [1800–61]. . . . An excellent work and a major contribution to the historiography of the North American West.”—John Husmann, South Dakota History

“The strength of [Hyde’s] work lies in her ability to assemble and integrate a vast amount of secondary work into a thematic framework that emphasizes the important role kinship structures played in shaping the economic and social structures of the West prior to 1860.”—James E. Sherow, Kansas History


“This is an important and useful book, and it should find a large readership.”—Katrine Barber, Oregon Historical Quarterly

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                                        
List of Maps
Acknowledgments: Adventures in the Land of the Dead
Introduction: The Geography of Empire in 1804                 
     St. Louis
     Santa Fe
     The Pacific Coast
     Family Stories
     “Died Single”
     Why Fur and Why Families?
     Sources and Definitions
     Maps and Signposts
Part I: Replacing a State: The Continental Web of Family Trade
Chapter 1: Families and Fur: The Personal World of the Early American West
     The Chouteau Family and Missouri River World
     “Middle Ground” or “Native Ground”?
     “Tough Love” and Family Loyalty
      On the Trail of Wealth and Opportunity
      The Sublette Brothers and Their Family Business
      Chasing Fortune and Family
      Americans in Mexico, Californios in America
      Dangerous Places
Chapter 2: Fort Vancouver’s Families: The Custom of the Country     
      Cogs in the Fur Trade
      The Local and Global Communities of the Columbia
      The Métis World of John McLoughlin
      The Tentacles of International Trade
      The McLoughlins and the Company
       Life and Work on the Columbia
       Global Ambitions
       The Fine Mesh of the Family Network
       Immigrants, Nations, and the Loss of a Family Empire
       Murder at Fort Stikine and Suicide in California
Chapter 3: Three Western Places: Regional Communities and Vecinidad
      William Bent’s Border World
      Bent's Fort and Its Neighborhood
      Omens and Weddings
      Norteños and Yanquis in Alta California
      Captain Sutter's New Helvetia
      Dinner and Diplomacy in Northern California
      Portents of Change
      Stephen Austin’s Border World
      Planting Colonies in Texas
      Austin's Fractious Neighborhood
PART II: Americans All: The Mixed World of Indian Country
Chapter 4: The Early West: The Many Faces of Indian Country
     Cherokee, Shawnee, and Osage
     The View from Fort Osage
     The View from St. Louis
     Change, Loss, and Warfare on the Missouri
     The Arikara War
     Métis and Half-Breed in an Anglo West
Chapter 5: Empires in Transition: Indian Country at Midcentury, 1825-1860      
      Counting Indians
      Expanding Power
      The Santa Fe Trail
      Native Nations and Texas Revolution
      Retrenchment and Resistance
      The Osage and Accommodation on the Arkansas
      Good Fathers and the Fur Trade
      Captivity Tales and Epidemic Disease
PART III: From Nations to Nation: Imposing a State, 1840-1865
Chapter 6: Unintended Consequences: Families, Nations, and the Mexican War
      What if Guadelupe Boggs married Teresina Carson?
      Questions of Citizenship and Identity
      Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormonism
      Mexican Revolutions
      Continental Rumor Factories
      The Bent Family and the Vagaries of War
      Bent’s Choice
      Brigham Young and the Choices of War
      Hard Choices in California
     The McLoughlins’ Choice
Chapter 7: Border Wars: Disorder and Disaster in the 1850s   
      The Evolving Fur Trade World
      Postwar Family and Business on the Arkansas
      Indian War in the Pacific Northwest
      Oregon's Bloody Legacy
      The Failure of Warfare and Washington’s Native Nations
      Nation-Building in the Southwest
      Raising Families and Fighting Wars
Chapter 8: The State and its Handmaidens: Imposing Order    
     Civil Threats and the Mormons
     The Personal Politics of Polygamy and Theocracy
     The Almost War and the Massacre in Utah
     Conquest and Chaos in California
     A Nation of Squatters
     While Kansas Bled and Native People Fled
     The Pesky Details of Popular Sovereignty
     A National Horror Show
     The Minnesota Uprising of 1862
     Sand Creek and the Bent Family Nightmare
Epilogue: How it All Turned Out                            
    Los Angeles
    The Arkansas River
    St. Louis


Winner of the 2012 Bancroft Prize in American History
Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in History

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