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“The Indian Method of Warring”: Wampum, Warfare, and George Washington’s Lessons in Frontier Diplomacy During the Seven Years’ War Open Access

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Any scholar and student of early American history is well aware that there is no shortage of literature on George Washington. In recent years, scholars have done well to point out that Washington, despite generations of academic and public deification, was just as human as his more easily forgotten contemporaries, a reality evidenced by his (in)famous military mishap in the inter-imperial hinterlands of eastern North America that started the first world war in 1754. Yet Washingtonian literature remains void of a key element of Washington’s experience in Indian country: his experience with Indians. In a biographical history spanning four centuries, there is still yet to be seen a Washington biography detailing his experiences with his nearest foreign foes and allies. This research paper attempts to fill that void. This is not another study of young Washington’s experience in the British colonial militia, but rather a breakdown of the lessons he learned in warfare and diplomacy as a visitor in Native lodges, villages, and territories and how he applied these experiences to British colonial warfare and wartime politics. These lessons are best understood only when Native players are recast in their proper roles, as the kings, half kings, and queens of Indian country. This redistribution of political and historical agency and reconceptualization of monolithic narratives allows us to better understand the inseparability of colonial, early American, and Native American histories.

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