Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America (Hardback)
  • Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America (Hardback)
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Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America (Hardback)

(author)
£26.95
Hardback 400 Pages
Published: 01/10/2016
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The adoption of firearms by American Indians between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries marked a turning point in the history of North America’s indigenous peoples—a cultural earthquake so profound, says David Silverman, that its impact has yet to be adequately measured. Thundersticks reframes our understanding of Indians’ historical relationship with guns, arguing against the notion that they prized these weapons more for the pyrotechnic terror guns inspired than for their efficiency as tools of war. Native peoples fully recognized the potential of firearms to assist them in their struggles against colonial forces, and mostly against one another.

The smoothbore, flintlock musket was Indians’ stock firearm, and its destructive potential transformed their lives. For the deer hunters east of the Mississippi, the gun evolved into an essential hunting tool. Most importantly, well-armed tribes were able to capture and enslave their neighbors, plunder wealth, and conquer territory. Arms races erupted across North America, intensifying intertribal rivalries and solidifying the importance of firearms in Indian politics and culture.

Though American tribes grew dependent on guns manufactured in Europe and the United States, their dependence never prevented them from rising up against Euro-American power. The Seminoles, Blackfeet, Lakotas, and others remained formidably armed right up to the time of their subjugation. Far from being a Trojan horse for colonialism, firearms empowered American Indians to pursue their interests and defend their political and economic autonomy over two centuries.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674737471
Number of pages: 400
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Silverman’s compelling rediscovery of the ‘gun frontier,’ imaginatively conceived and deeply researched, is must reading. For nearly two centuries, indigenous peoples everywhere in North America waged devastating arms races with each other, enabled by, but seldom under the control of, Euro-Americans eager to sell their lethal wares in defiance of laws and their nations’ interests. - Daniel K. Richter, author of Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Pasts

After reading Thundersticks, no one will ever be able to question that guns were fundamental to colonialism and that American Indians wanted them, used them with ferocity, and that they changed Native life forever. Silverman makes it all so obvious in his utterly convincing and transformative book. He has literally rewritten American history. - Robbie Ethridge, author of From Chicaza to Chickasaw: The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540–1715

Tracking the impact of firearms across different eras and areas as Native peoples incorporated them into their arsenals, economies, foreign policies, and cultures, David Silverman shows how guns shaped the colonial and indigenous history of the continent. No one has done anything quite like this before. A major achievement. - Colin G. Calloway, author of The Victory with No Name: The Native American Defeat of the First American Army

Silverman’s command of a vast literature and his attention to evidence will put to rest any remaining doubts about the Indian preference for guns over the bow and arrow. - Gregory Evans Dowd, author of Groundless: Rumors, Legends, and Hoaxes on the Early American Frontier

Silverman tells this sad and bloody story with verve, making this an essential work for scholars of colonial encounters. - Publishers Weekly

A good measure of a work of history is whether it changes the way we understand its subject. By that measure, David J. Silverman succeeds admirably in Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America…In Silverman’s sober, sprawling account, America is a nation built on slaves and guns. - Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times Book Review

Focusing on the military and political changes stemming from the spread of firearms in North America, this is a well-informed, clearly argued account of the significance of access to these guns…Silverman’s book is a significant contribution to a field that is important for American studies, for military history and work on western expansionism. - Jeremy Black, History Today

Written in an accessible and at times swashbuckling style, the book is in many ways a retelling of the U.S.’ Indian Wars from the 17th to the 19th centuries, with a twist. It cracks the mystery of how Colonial-era Native American tribes came to master a continent-spanning, gun-running network in smoothbore flintlock muskets, often decades in advance of European settlement. - Casey Sanchez, Los Angeles Times

David J. Silverman has accomplished the rarest of feats; he has breathed new life into a very familiar topic among scholars—conflict in Native North America…No other author has elucidated quite so clearly how guns changed the lives, cultures, and futures of American Indians…Thundersticks is a marvelous accomplishment. Silverman’s work is accessible for nonscholars while at the same time essential reading for historians of Native America, the United States, the Atlantic World, and more. This is how history should be written. - Jason Herbert, Western Historical Review

Given that indigenous life across the continent was profoundly reshaped by guns and gunpowder—two things no Native society had the capacity to produce—it is remarkable that we had to wait until 2016 for a book that marries sophisticated indigenous history with a focus on the transformative effects of firearms over the long term. David J. Silverman’s Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America is worth the wait…The force of this book is in the details…Thundersticks is nonetheless the indispensable new work on an important and understudied topic. More than that, it presents an eloquent and penetrating new synthesis of Native American history before the reservation era. - Brian DeLay, American Historical Review

Thundersticks powerfully extends the study of guns into early America and links such histories with the evolution of North America’s continental past. Silverman has offered a vital corrective to the historiography of firearms as well as to temporal and spatial frameworks that elide the enduring cycles of violence that have remade Native America. - Ned Blackhawk, William and Mary Quarterly

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