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Julie Fisher

  • Ph.D. Program, American History
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Julie Fisher

University of California-Santa Barbara, B.A., History, 1997; George Washington University, M.A., History, 2002.

Cathy Matson

Dissertation Summary
My dissertation argues that interpersonal relationships were the glue of Indian-English politics in seventeenth-century southern New England, a view that runs counter to the current historiographical focus on aggregate polities like tribes and colonies. From the beginning of colonization, Indian and colonial leaders formed alliances with each other to advance their personal ambitions and their people’s fortunes. These relationships became so fundamental to intercultural politics that they shaped the political geography of the region to a greater degree than the formal political claims of colonies and tribes. “Go-betweens,” individuals that translated the language and cultural practices between English colonies and Indian communities, were essential actors in this history. The English and Indian go-betweens were exclusively male and varied in social status. Language skills were the crux of success for these English and Indian go-betweens and explaining how they acquired their language skills is therefore critical in writing this history. While go-betweens the world over acquired new languages through sexual partners or in childhood, few if any in New England had the benefit of either. Nevertheless, Englishmen learned native languages—Narragansett, Wampanoag, Pequot-Mohegan—and Indian men learned English.  But the question remains: how precisely did they do so? If scholars are to understand Indian-colonial relations in New England, they need to understand the individuals that shaped the diplomacy.