In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a Native American empire rose to dominate the fiercely contested lands of the American Southwest, the southern Great Plains, and northern Mexico. This powerful empire, built by the Comanche Indians, eclipsed its various European rivals in military prowess, political prestige, economic power, commercial reach, and cultural influence. Yet, until now, the Comanche empire has gone unrecognized in American history.
This compelling and original book uncovers the lost story of the Comanches. It is a story that challenges the idea of indigenous peoples as victims of European expansion and offers a new model for the history of colonial expansion, colonial frontiers, and Native-European relations in North America and elsewhere. Pekka Hämäläinen shows in vivid detail how the Comanches built their unique empire and resisted European colonization, and why they fell to defeat in 1875. With extensive knowledge and deep insight, the author brings into clear relief the Comanches’ remarkable impact on the trajectory of history.
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Pekka Hämäläinen is associate professor of history, University of California, Santa Barbara. He lives in Santa Barbara.Review:
“The Comanche Empire is a landmark study that will make readers see the history of southwestern America in an entirely new way.”—David J. Weber, author of Bárbaros: Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment (David J. Weber)
“This exhilarating book is not just a pleasure to read; important and challenging ideas circulate through it and compel attention. It is a nuanced account of the complex social, cultural, and biological interactions that the acquisition of the horse unleashed in North America, and a brilliant analysis of a Comanche social formation that dominated the Southern Plains. Parts of the book will be controversial, but the book as a whole is a tour de force.”—Richard White, author of The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815
“The Comanche Empire is an impressive achievement. That a major Native power emerged and dominated the interior of the continent compels a re-thinking of well worn narratives about colonial America and westward expansion, about the relative power of European and Native societies, and about the directions of change. The book makes a major contribution to Native American history and challenges our understanding of the ways in which American history unfolded.”—Colin G. Calloway, author of One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark (Colin G. Calloway)
“Pekka Hämäläinen profoundly alters our understanding of the American Southwest, asserting that Comanche expansion and domination eclipsed European imperialism over the 18th and early 19th centuries. Readers of this ambitious and discerning ethnohistory learn close-up how the Comanches made colonial as well as native communities the building blocks of their own ascendancy. In a counter-narrative to frontier history and a revision of borderlands study, Hämäläinen features the contingency of historical change and the agency of Indian people.”—Daniel H. Usner, Vanderbilt University
(Daniel H. Usner)
"Cutting-edge revisionist western history. . . . Immensely informative, particularly about activities in the eighteenth century."—Larry McMurtry, The New York Review of Books (Larry McMurtry The New York Review of Books 2008-05-29)
"[A] fascinating and richly detailed study."—Si Dunn, Dallas Morning News (Si Dunn Dallas Morning News 2008-06-29)
"The Comanche Empire is a hugely important documentary survey of the Comanche Nation, as known from documentary sources between the late 17th and the late 19th centuries."—Ed Baker, The Austin Chronicle (Ed Baker Austin Chronicle 2008-06-20)
"A fascinating new book, details [the Comanches] unusual and colorful history. . . . [Hämäläinen] has rescued the Comanches from myth and distortion and given them their due in the sprawling epic that is our American story."—John Sledge, Mobile Press-Register (AL) (John Sledge Mobile Press-Register (AL) 2008-07-11)
“Hämäläinen not only puts Native Americans back into the story but also gives them—particularly the Comanche—recognition as major historical players who shaped events and outcomes.”—Sherry Smith, Southern Methodist University, author of Reimagining Indians: Native Americans Through Anglo Eyes, 1880-1940
"Comanche Empire is an impressive, well-written, and important study that should significantly influence future metanarratives, whether they include all or parts of Texas, the West, the Borderlands, or even general histories of the United States and Mexico."—Ty Cashion, Journal of Military History (Ty Cashion Journal of Military History 2009-04-01)
Winner of the 2009 Award of Merit, sponsored by the Philosophical Society of Texas (Award of Merit Philosophical Society of Texas 2009-01-01)
“Perhaps we can simply stipulate that The Comanche Empire is an exceptional book—in fact, one of the finest pieces of scholarship that I have read in years. . . . Hämäläinen has given us a closely argued, finely wrought, intensely challenging book.”—Joshua Piker, William and Mary Quarterly
(Joshua Piker William and Mary Quarterly 2010-01-01)
"This book deserves all the accolades it has and will receive. It is certain to be on reading lists for years to come."—William J. Bauer, Jr., Journal of World History (William J. Bauer Jr. Journal of World History)
"Argued with a drama befitting the subject, The Comanche Empire is bound to influence thinking about western history considerably."--Daniel J. Gelo (Daneil J. Gelo Journal of American History)
"An important read for any researcher interested in Indigenous North America, the West, or colonization."--James O'Neill Spady, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History (James O'Neill Spady Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History)
"Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, The Comanche Empire is much more than a tribal history of an important plains Indian people. Hamalainen's bold interpretation that the Comanches created a uniquely "Comanche" empire that challenges and subsequently dominated the southern plains for over a century forces a complete reevaluation of the various storms that brewed in the colonial Southwest."—Thomas A. Britten, The Historian (Thomas A. Britten The Historian)
"Ambitiously revisionist. . . . An important read for any researcher interested in Indigenous North America, the West, or colonization."—James O'Neil Spady, Project Muse (James O'Neil Spady Project Muse)
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