Why did I love this book?
The Middle Ground is by far the best overview of the Great Lakes frontier over a period of almost two hundred years. White traces how French fur traders were able to establish a fluctuating “middle ground” with the Indian nations of the region that allowed for a degree of respect, understanding, and intermarriage. When the French were succeeded by the British, this middle ground began to shrink, as English traders wanted to let the cash nexus determine their business practices. When the Americans came to dominate the situation, the middle ground, with the exception of a few figures like William Wells, almost entirely disappeared. The result was devastating for the Indian nations, whose cultures nearly disappeared. White’s thesis has been challenged by Alan Taylor and other historians of the period, but the book remains an essential classic.