Boundaries and American Colonies

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In Alan Taylor’s book American Colonies, he describes how boundaries are important on various levels to explain the past. Taylor refutes the idea of teleology, which is the belief that certain events lead to a predetermined outcome, and uses contingency with no conclusion and unorganized past. In the introduction of the book we see the environmental, ethnohistory, and Atlantic perspective being used to interpret every angle of history. I have decided to use chapter 2 “colonizers” to describe how I see Taylor describing boundaries as important.

The European mariners discover the Americas in the late15th century. This led to their domination of trade and growth of transoceanic empires along the Atlantic coast. The Europeans were stunned by the distinctive “flora, fauna, and human cultures” they found in the new world. These differences were changed by the newcomers because of the invasion of colonists, plants, and livestock which changed the biological and cultural differences held by the boundary set with the Atlantic Ocean.

Alan Taylor also used regions as a boundary to organize his book. He titles different chapters by names of areas such as “The Spanish Frontier”, “Canada”, and “The West Indies”. He wasn’t exactly chronological in his writing, but rather used regions to organize the past. We learn in chapter two that many regions were being taken over by Europeans. For example, Benin, The Canaries, and Azores areas were being attacked for land by Iberians. The colonists brought diseases which changed the populations drastically. This also changed the environmental boundary that was there before any invasion, because cultures combine and learn from one another.

Voyagers like Christopher Columbus and the Spanish came to the new world and viewed the Indians as weak and “dumb” humans who were unorganized. When we look at the ethnohistory of the Native Americans we see their culture on their own terms. We learn over a decade almost half of the...
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