Emory Historians Discuss their Recent Books

Colonial Georgia and the Creeks: Anglo-Indian Diplomacy on the Southern Frontier, 1733-1763

by John Juricek

John JuricekI'm still a little surprised to be the author of Colonial Georgia and the Creeks: Anglo-Indian Diplomacy on the Southern Frontier, 1733-1763 (University Press of Florida, 2010). My scholarship took an unexpected turn when I was invited to become one of the editors of a multi-volume series, Early American Indian Documents: Treaties and Laws, 1607-1789. The need was clear, the idea was simple: while treaties and important related documents had long since been published on United States relations with Indians, no comparable documentary collection existed for the colonial era.

The original plan was to complete the series in twenty volumes in three to five years. The collection was completed in twenty volumes, but it took twenty-five years (1979-2004) to do it. I edited volumes 11 and 12: Georgia Treaties, 1733-1763 (1989) and Georgia and Florida Treaties, 1763-1776 (2002). I was soon surprised at how much neglected or forgotten documentary material (including two treaties) that I was able to locate. I began to sense that a major American story had gone largely unnoticed, and became absorbed in the project.

At first I was also a little surprised to find that nearly all of colonial Georgia's diplomatic activity focused on the Creek Indians. I had expected the Cherokees -- whose relations with the State of Georgia during the "removal" era have prompted a huge literature -- to play a larger role. Extant publication on the Creeks was comparatively meager. One reason the Creek picture was so faint was that, unlike the Cherokees, the Creeks were generally insistant on keeping European missionaries, military men, and government officials outside of their lands. As a result, contemporary documents on the Creeks are relatively rare.

Most of what had been written about Georgia-Creek diplomacy concerned trade or interethnic violence. The main thing the two sides negotiated about, however, was land. So I got another surprise: my previous detailed work with English territorial claims in North America turned out to be essential for understanding what was going on with these negotiations. By the time I finished my second edited volume I knew there was a big story to tell and that I was well placed to tell it. I began writing what became Colonial Georgia and the Creeks in 2002.

Nearly all previous accounts of colonial Georgia's relations with Indians give grossly disproportionate attention to the earliest years when James Oglethorpe ran the colony almost by himself. The usual picture is that Oglethorpe achieved the survival of the colony by dealing wisely and generously with naive and passive natives. This view is seriously deficient. First, the Indians were resourceful competitors who by 1739 had Oglethorpe on the defensive. Second, while Oglethorpe's initial diplomacy was successful, he made disastrous blunders in 1738 and 1739 that poisoned relations with the Creeks for a decade and a half.

Oglethorpe's most serious blunder involved providing tacit approval for a gift of land from Creek leaders to Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth. Half Creek herself, Mary was the most colorful character in early Georgia. The efforts by Oglethorpe and other English leaders to deny this grant led Creek leaders, prompted by Mary and her English husbands, to suppose that the insolent English were denying Creek ownership of the lands in question. The conflict was between Creek ideas of land ownership and English ideas of territorial sovereignty. The arguments put forward by the two sides never met, but passed like ships in the night. The darkness was so thick later historians have mostly been unaware of the character or importance of this conflict. It was not resolved until Governor Henry Ellis managed an ingenious and complicated compromise in 1759.

I have been gratified that since the appearance of my first documentary volume at least ten scholarly books have been published dealing with the Creeks during the colonial era. I am especially pleased that two of them are by former students: Steven Oatis (1999), A colonial Complex: South Carolina's Frontiers in the Era of the Yamasee War, 1680-1730 (2004), and Steven Hahn (2000), The Invention of the Creek Nation, 1670-1763 (2004). Steve Hahn will soon publish the first scholarly biography of Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth.

Kasato-Maru ¿ uma viagem pela história da imigração japonesa

by Jeffrey Lesser and Celia Sakurai

Jeffrey LesserThe book Kasato-Maru ¿ uma viagem pela história da imigração japonesa began in an unusual way.  A student intern at the SãoPaulo State Archives discovered a list of the first Japanese immigrants to Brazil.  It was enclosed in a letter written by Alcino Santos Silva, Brazil¿s consul in Japan, to the Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce and Public Works.  It included detailed information about each of 781 immigrants who arrived in Brazil in 1908 aboard the Kasatu-Maru after a fifty-one day voyage across two oceans.

The exciting discovery led the Archive¿s director to ask a Brazilian colleague and me to write a short book contextualizing the document. We began by looking at the demographics of the group.  Most were members of families (both extended and nuclear) and many more children were aboard the ship than was typical among immigrants arriving in Brazil at the time. We were also impressed at the range of professions.  Unlike the many impoverished Southern Europeans who made up much of the immigrant stream, the Japanese newcomers were overwhelming literate and included artisans, journalists and technical experts along with farmers.

The final part of the book examined the impact of Japanese immigration on Brazil, a country with more people of Japanese descent than the rest of the world (outside of Japan) combined.  We were particularly interested in the implications of contemporary model minority stereotypes that simultaneously define Japanese-Brazilians as the ¿best¿ Brazilians of all and as never fully Brazilian. 

Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence

by Sharon Strocchia

Sharon StrocchiaThe Black Death of 1348-49 devastated the convents of late medieval Florence. In the wake of plague, many female religious communities housed barely a dozen women, who struggled to eke out a communal life on the edges of poverty. The survival of these small, semi-autonomous institutions filled with celibate women was by no means guaranteed, given strong social pressures to marry and replenish a dwindling urban population. Yet two centuries later, these same communities were literally bursting at the seams: by 1552, about one in every eight Florentine women lived in a convent. Why did female monasticism experience such a stunning recovery between 1350 and 1550? How did this explosive expansion impact the thousands of women living in religious houses? More broadly, what did this transformation of female religious institutions mean for the city of Florence as a whole?   

These were the questions I set out to answer in my book, Nuns and Nunneries in Renaissance Florence. What I discovered by rummaging around a rich body of archival sources was that local political dynamics, new economic activities, and elite marriage strategies all played an important role in transforming female monasticism. In the fifteenth century, heads of elite households reaped numerous social dividends when they placed their daughters in convents. Not only did they save money by paying a much smaller ¿spiritual¿ dowry to religious houses than would be required to marry their daughters well; these merchants and bankers also strategically put their daughters in particular institutions as a way to develop political and ecclesiastical power bases throughout the city. These new monastic practices helped to redefine urban social geography by dissolving some of the thick neighborhood bonds that characterized medieval Florence and replacing them with a more cohesive sense of class linking members of the urban patriciate. But, as I discovered, there was a reverse side to this equation as well: literate, well-born nuns used their influential social connections and growing economic clout to operate as patrons and power brokers in their own right. The instrumental use of kinship cut both ways.

One of my most significant¿and surprising¿findings was that Florentine nuns provided a cheap, well-disciplined labor force that advanced the city¿s commercial fortunes in the burgeoning silk industry. The creative activities of Renaissance nuns as writers, artists and musicians have been the subject of much recent study, leaving little doubt that religious life offered a vital avenue for women¿s self-expression in this period. Yet there is an untold side to this story, one that speaks instead to the constitutive role that nuns played in the Renaissance economy. My book shows that, besides being creative women, nuns were also working women who spent long hours every day spinning gold thread and producing exquisite embroideries for clients across Italy. Although they may have found satisfaction in this work, Renaissance nuns engaged in these activities principally to earn money to support their communities. As I demonstrate, Italian convents were poorly endowed institutions whose income did not cover regular ongoing expenses. In fact, roughly three out of four Florentine nuns in the fifteenth century lived at or below the official cost of living set by civic tax officials. Consequently, religious women were forced to work¿whether as teachers, caregivers, or in textile manufacture¿simply to make ends meet.

Yalta 1945:  Europe and America at the Crossroads

by Fraser J. Harbutt

Fraser HarbuttThis book is a study of Allied diplomacy, 1941-1945, and the transition from World War II to the Cold War.  I wrote it because I felt that, despite a voluminous and spirited historiography, the subject is still misunderstood, largely because of a persisting Americocentrism that has led historians to neglect a crucially important European political dimension in events up to February 1945.  In particular, I was interested in developing a new interpretation of the Yalta conference of February 1945, seeing it as a pivotal moment when a pre-existing Anglo-Soviet diplomacy that was much more substantial than existing scholarship allows, was suddenly pushed off course by a new American political intervention that envisioned, not the traditional Europe-managed Great Power postwar settlement  that all three Allies had seemed to contemplate up to that point, but rather a more universalistic arrangement centered on an American internationalism that was only now beginning to express itself through the emerging United Nations Organization.  The familiar large figures (Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin) are as important as ever but are seen here in a new light as  -   mainly through confusion, misunderstanding and miscalculation  -   they steadily lost control after Yalta of a postwar order that turned out to be very different from the original intent of all the principal statesmen.