Yale History Professor Jay Gitlin speaks at UCL on "The Transcolonial Bourgeois Frontier"

  • 10 Dec 2013
  • 6:30 PM - 7:45 PM
  • UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, Room 103

Yale History Professor: Jay Gitlin 
speaks at UCL on
"The Transcolonial Bourgeois Frontier: French Traders and the Porous Borders of the Spanish and British Empires in North America, 1763 to 1847"


Tuesday, 10 December 2013
18:30 - 19:45, Q&A included
Room 103
UCL Institute of the Americas
51 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PN


About the talk: 

Jay Gitlin, Associate Director of the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders at Yale University, joins Tony McCulloch, Senior Fellow in North American Studies at the UCL Institute of the Americas, for a discussion of the complex tensions and fluid relationships between French traders and US settlers, and of the surprisingly cosmopolitan world of 'border zones'. 

After the lecture there will then be a wine reception with finger buffet in the Americas Room, next door to Room 103. Attendees are welcome to stay at UCL-IA most of the evening, as they wish, to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Gordon Square is situated in the heart of Bloomsbury and No 51 was for many years the home of Lytton Strachey and his family. John Maynard Keynes lived at No 46, a few doors along, from 1916 to 1946, and Virginia Woolf lived around the corner.


About the Speaker, Jay Gitlin:
Jay Gitlin is Associate Director of the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders at Yale University. He has taught history at Yale for over twenty-five years, including courses on the American West, Québec and Canada, suburbanization, and—with Sandy Isenstadt—the history of shopping. His book, "The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders, and American Expansion" received the 2010 Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize for the best book in French colonial history. He is also the co-editor and co-author of "Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past" (1992) and "Frontier Cities: Encounters at the Crossroads of Empire" (2012). He has been an on-camera commentator and consultant for several television shows on the History Channel and Connecticut Public Television, including Suburbia: The Good Life in Connecticut, nominated for a regional Emmy.


This event is free! Please reserve your spot by sending an e-mail to Tony McCulloch at t.mcculloch@ucl.ac.uk by Friday, 6 December.   


More on the "Transcolonial Bourgeois Frontier...":
The viceroy of New Spain, Revilla Gigedo, described the French of North America as "esta nación tan ambulativa" in a letter written in 1752. He was referring to the constant intrusions of French traders from the Illinois Country into Spanish Texas and New Mexico. (This quote can be found on page 338 of Paul Mapp’s recent book, The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire, 1713-1763.) Officials in a variety of North American places wondered what to do with French traders whose activities seemed to undermine imperial boundaries and trade regulations. In my book The Bourgeois Frontier, I argued that our focus in the United States on settler frontiers and “manifest destiny” has obscured the role of French traders from St. Louis and other places who occupied “a cultural and social space of accommodation while pursuing an economic agenda of development and change,” in New Mexico and elsewhere, thus serving as intermediaries or an advance guard for political reform and regime change. Expanding that argument to include such frontier cities and border towns as Havana, New Orleans, and Detroit, we might discover a more pervasive and complex story of transcolonial relations and fluid identities that included emerging notions of being Creole and/or American. Traditional narratives that focus on the relationship between the metropole and the colony and end with independence movements and the struggles to create nations and nationalities may miss the intriguing, more “horizontal,” connections between colonies and the surprisingly cosmopolitan world of these border zones. In short, the West WAS a wild and fascinating place. Anglo-Americans who went to frontier towns such as St. Louis, Detroit, Vincennes, and St. Paul were often shocked to hear a variety of languages being spoken, primarily French. And businessmen played a critical role in western expansion.-- Jay Gitlin

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