Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas

Dividing Territory

John Smith
While Indian groups in the New World had competed over territorial privileges long before the arrival of Europeans, Euro-American encounters overturned previous compromises, as Europeans staked national claims and colonists sought land for themselves. Print, which Europeans relied upon when legitimating land claims, became a weapon in these struggles.
Map of New Belgium

Maps helped to define and enforce European geographical conceptions, by dividing the Americas into national territories and by pushing Indian groups into ever smaller areas. Such cartographic assertions took on particular importance in contested North America, where the English, the Dutch, and the French staked out large territories.
Map of New France
León Pinelo
Legal texts could only partially reconcile divisive land conflicts - usually in favor of the dominant group. In New Spain, the Spanish allotted settlers rights to land and Indian labor (encomiendas). León Pinelo produced a survey of existing encomiendas in 1630.
In North America, where conquest was not so rapid, colonial leaders became negotiators, and the treaty became the principal written genre of intercultural communication. New England's colonial agents encouraged Algonquian tribes to declare "submission" to the English, an act which either limited tribal access to territory or eliminated it altogether.
Five Nations
The Iroquois were successful, as least until the American Revolution, in maintaining their strategic position between New France, New York, and Pennsylvania. Treaties like those published by Cadwallader Colden demonstrate Iroquois willingness to give up territory but also resistance to European definitions of land and ownership.

New World Lands in Print

Exhibition Contents | Introduction | Essays | Bibliography & Links

Last update: Monday, 05-Oct-2015 00:01:21 EDT
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