Early American Places


UGA PressUGA Press

An Empire of Small Places

Mapping the Southeastern Anglo-Indian Trade, 1732–1795

by Robert Paulett

How Europeans, Africans, and Indians created the early southern landscape

Page count: 264 pp.
14 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-8203-4346-4 (h), 978-0-8203-4347-1 (p)


In this interesting and engaging book, Paulett contributes to important conversations about eighteenth-century colonialism and Indian- European relations.
— Joshua Piker, author of Okfuskee: A Creek Indian Town in Colonial America

Britain's colonial empire in southeastern North America relied on the cultivation and maintenance of economic and political ties with the numerous powerful Indian confederacies of the region. Those ties in turn relied on British traders adapting to Indian ideas of landscape and power. In An Empire of Small Places, Robert Paulett examines this interaction over the course of the eighteenth century, drawing attention to the ways that conceptions of space competed, overlapped, and changed. He encourages us to understand the early American South as a landscape made by interactions among American Indians, European Americans, and enslaved African American laborers.

Focusing especially on the Anglo-Creek-Chickasaw route that ran from the coast through Augusta to present-day Mississippi and Tennessee, Paulett finds that the deerskin trade produced a sense of spatial and human relationships that did not easily fit into Britain's imperial ideas and thus forced the British to consciously articulate what made for a proper realm. He develops this argument in chapters about five specific kinds of places: the imagined spaces of British maps and the lived spaces of the Savannah River, the town of Augusta, traders' paths, and trading houses. In each case, the trade's practical demands privileged Indian, African, and nonelite European attitudes toward place. After the Revolution, the new United States created a different model for the Southeast that sought to establish a new system of Indian-white relationships oriented around individual neighborhoods.

[Robert Paulett] encourages us to understand the early American South as a landscape made by interactions among American Indians, European Americans, and enslaved African American laborers.
— Bob Edmonds, McCormick Messenger
Robert Paulett has given us a refreshing consideration of life in the eighteenth-century deerskin trade. His focus on disparate groups occupying the same arena but living different experiences challenges us to reimagine the complexities of life among multiple cultures and changing landscapes. . . . [H]is work adds new information and a different perspective to studies of the American South.
— Sarah H. Hill, Southern Spaces

About the Author


Robert Paulett is an assistant professor of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

The blend of geography, history, and social observation makes for a fine survey examining Britain’s colonial empire in North America and its economic and political ties with various Indian nations.
— Midwest Book Review
Robert Paulett’s work seamlessly integrates history and geography centered on the Anglo-Creek deerskin trade by analyzing maps produced in the eighteenth century. . . . An Empire of Small Places is a welcome addition to the ever-growing interest in the Southeast among early Americanists.
— Hyun Wu Lee, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Robert Paulett examines the ways that British deerskin traders adapted their lives to Indian ideas of landscape, property, and human relationships. With a sure touch, he describes how Creek and English conceptions of space competed, overlapped, and changed as the British imposed their own cartographic conceptions in the interest of building empire.
— Paul M. Pressly, Georgia Historical Quarterly
[An Empire of Small Places] is an enlightening study and should find a ready audience among not only colonial historians and southeastern Indian specialists but also scholars interested in understanding place-making more broadly.
— Angela Pulley Hudson, The Journal of Southern History
This is an important and insightful analysis of the development of colonial Augusta, the Indian trade, and the geography of the Southeast. Paulett convincingly demonstrates how the region was transformed geographically from a world where Natives and newcomers understood that they were interconnected by a series of paths to one where they believed they lived in discrete neighborhoods. This ideological and physical transformation has tremendous explanatory value and will be of interest to historians of the early South, Native Americans, urban America, and the frontier in general.
— Andrew K. Frank, author of Creeks and Southerners: Biculturalism on the Early American Frontier