Unsettling the West: Violence and State Building in the Ohio Valley By Rob Harper

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Amy Schutt


Focusing on the years 1765 to 1795, Rob Harper presents a thought-provoking argument about the sources of violence in the Ohio Valley. It has been all too common, Harper contends, for historians to explain this violence as a product of hatred unleashed when government institutions were undeveloped or missing. The reality is different, he asserts: it was not the lack of government authority that spurred war and destruction. Instead, “the horrors of the period stemmed from governments’ intrusive presence” (p. 1). Colonists were more likely to launch and expand attacks on Ohio Indians when they found governmental resources available and could “manipulate” officialdom or state processes (pp. 28, 173). Ohio Indians faced the consequences of these manipulations but often held back from war with the colonists. (Harper uses the term “colonist” for non-Indian colonizers of the Ohio Valley throughout the time period of his study, highlighting that colonization did not end but rather increased in the region after 1776). Shifts occurred, however, as in 1777, when “British and revolutionary officials funneled resources into the region” and “undercut peacemakers, tipping the political balance toward militancy” (p. 96).


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Schutt, A. . (2020). Unsettling the West: Violence and State Building in the Ohio Valley By Rob Harper. Indiana Magazine of History, 116(2), 150–151. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/imh/article/view/34577