Brothers Among Nations

The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580-1660


During the first eighty years of permanent European colonization, webs of alliances shaped North America from northern New England to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and entangled all peoples in one form or another.In Brothers among Nations, Cynthia Van Zandt argues that the pursuit of alliances was a widespread multiethnic quest that shaped the early colonial American world in fundamentally important ways. These alliances could produce surprising results, with Europeans sometimes subservient to more powerful Native American nations, even as native nations were sometimes clients and tributaries of European colonists. Spanning nine European colonies, including English, Dutch, and Swedish colonies, as well as many Native American nations and a community of transplanted Africans, Brothers among Nations enlists a broad array of sources to illuminate the degree to which European colonists were frequently among the most vulnerable people in North America and the centrality of Native Americans to the success of the European colonial project.
  • Oxford University Press; July 2008
  • ISBN 9780199720552
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Brothers Among Nations
  • Author: Cynthia J. Van Zandt
  • Imprint: Oxford University Press

In The Press

"Early intercultural encounters in North America have been encased in a nationalistic mythology that presents the colonizers as strong, confident, and culturally superior to the natives, who are portrayed as child-like, passive, and backward. With this book, Cynthia Van Zandt takes her place in a long line of historians who have labored to overturn that mythology by showing just how precarious early colonial ventures were."--Timothy J. Shannon, Virginia Magazine of History & Biography
"This highly original work shows us colonial America as we have rarely seen it before. Where other historians have found conflict among European, African, and Indian inhabitants, Cynthia Van Zandt reveals cooperation, accommodation, and alliance. Along the way, she introduces us to a cast of characters almost wholly unfamiliar to historians and conveys with admirable clarity the ethnic, religious, and cultural heterogeneity of these new colonial societies. Brothers among Nations furnishes a major new interpretation of the first decades of European settlement in North America, one sure to command a wide readership."--Alison Games, Georgetown University
"In clear, accessible prose, Cynthia Van Zandt reveals a lost world, a world in which far-flung alliances gave underlying unity to seemingly disconnected local events. No one who reads Brothers among Nations will ever again see the interconnected histories of Virginia, New England, and New Netherland in quite the same way."--Daniel K. Richter, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania
"Cynthia Van Zandt vividly brings to life the neglected careers of intercultural brokers. These newcomers, reaching out to Native America, forging alliances and even placing themselves under Indian protection, ensured the survival of the infant settlements."--Allan Greer, author of Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits
"By focusing on kinship--rhetorical as well as real--and the fluidity of boundaries, Cynthia Van Zandt has expanded our understanding of an understudied and frequently misunderstood period."--Brendan McConville, Boston University
"Cynthia Van Zandt's thought-provoking study will open the eyes of those accustomed to reading about narrow corners of early America. Her revelation of the galaxy of intercultural alliances forged by Native Americans, English, Dutch, Swedes, and Africans illuminates how the early colonial world, with its unstable categories and shifting power relationships, was held together."--Joyce D. Goodfriend, University of Denver
"Van Zandt provides a convincing portrait of the complexities of interethnic interaction in an era when relations within and between communities were fluid and all parties attempted to combine their strengths with those of potential allies to counter threats from potential or real enemies."--Thomas S. Abler, The Journal of American History
"This is a valuable addition to Atlantic history and a correction to the standard view of intercolonial and Euro-Native relations before 1660."--D.R. Mandell, CHOICE

About The Author

Cynthia J. Van Zandt is an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire.