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The Upper Country

, 224 pages

3 halftones, 6 maps

May 2008



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The Upper Country

French Enterprise in the Colonial Great Lakes

The Upper Country melds myth and conventional history to provide a memorable tale of French designs in the middle of what became the United States. Putting the reader on the battlefields, at the trading posts, and on the rivers with voyageurs and their allies from the Indian nations, Claiborne Skinner reveals the saintly missionaries and jolly fur traders of popular myth as agents of a hard-nosed, often ruthless, imperial endeavor. Skinner’s engaging narrative takes the reader through daily life at posts like Forts Saint Louis and Michilimakinac, illuminates the complexities of interracial marriage with the courtship of Michel Aco at Peoria, and explains how France's New World adventurism played a role in the outbreak of the Seven Years War and the beginning of the modern era.

In this story, many of the traditional heroes and villains of American history take on surprising roles. The last Stuart kings of England seem shrewd and even human; George Washington makes his debut appearance on the stage of history by assassinating a French officer and plunging Europe into the first truly global war.

From unthinkable hardship to dreams of fur trade profits, this fascinating exploration sheds new light on France and its imperial venture into the Great Lakes.

Claiborne A. Skinner is an instructor of history and social science at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

"A broad and compelling synthesis of the history of New France."

"An engaging traditional narrative of the expansion of New France."

"A lively and lucid work of historical synthesis... Skinner's mining and close reading of primary sources, along with his well-written and concise narrative, brings the historical actors and events to life."

"Recommended. General readers and undergraduates."

"Skinner... knows his subject well. The Upper Country is a straightforward narrative of familiar milestones of the French expansion in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys."

"Skinner’s ambitious survey history of the upper country is timely... One major contribution this book makes is that it will likely expose more American students to the notion that the history of America is not just the story of the British colonists."

"Skinner provides a welcome introduction to many of those who made the Upper Country an important part of colonial North America... For those needing an introduction to the Upper Country of New France, this a good place for you to begin your quest."

"Provides a fine, detailed analysis of French efforts to appropriate this region, to control and extract the greatest possible benefit from it, all the while emphasizing the importance of Amerindian alliances in both exploiting this region and in denying access to the British."

"The French enterprise in the Upper Country was complex. Still, Skinner makes admirable sense of it within about two hundred pages by using both American and French historiographies to present a work that accurately summarizes the innovative research of the past two decades on this topic. In The Upper Country Skinner offers a survey that will be of great help to undergraduate students not only in the United States but in Canada as well."

"Skinner is particularly adept at expressing the shifting dynamic of French-Indian affairs and the fur trade, as well as the movements of allied forces in response to wars with the Fox, Chickasaw, and Natchez... An affordable, lively, well-mapped, and reasonably comprehensive synthesis of events in the upper country on the eve of a war that ultimately determined control of a continent."

"Claiborne Skinner's The Upper Country offers a succinct overview of one of the great, if too often untold, theaters of North American history."

"An informative volume that would be a useful tool for the teaching of early Canadian, American, or North American pasts."

"A historical narrative that is very readable, engaging, and coherent... What Skinner accomplishes in less than two hundred pages is really quite remarkable."

"A great analysis of the French colonial model and an historiographic leap forward... The best and most reliable synthesis I have read on the subject yet."

"A very useful synthesis... From this story of an embattled Pax Gallica emerge larger-than-life characters like Nicolas Perrot, Duluth, Tonti 'Iron Hand,' Cadillac, Louvigny, the Huron Kondiaronk, and the Iroquois Black Kettle—important men too often neglected in American historiography."

" The Upper Country presents an impressive scope of the past in an easy-to-read, accessible style that is sometimes laced with wonderfully dry humor. Clearly a passionate labor of love, it is a story masterfully told which brings this era and its participants to life again."

"An excellent book."

"An easily accessible handbook for historians."

"An informative volume."

"Skinner’s work is a superb, even masterful, synthesis that testifies to the importance of New France and the history of French colonization to the overarching narrative of early America."

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