Winner of the 2012 Bancroft Prize
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 doubled the size of the new United States, promising not only land but prosperity for its citizens. But the West was not the virgin wilderness of common myth. Rather, as historian Anne F. Hyde makes clear in her groundbreaking, prizewinning history, America was a newcomer in a place already complicated by vying empires–native and European. Here, for the first time, she traces the network of multiethnic family associations, which, along with the river systems of the trans-Mississippi West, had formed the basis for the global fur trade for centuries. Involved with this trade were trappers, hunters, merchants, bankers, and politicians by the thousands. Dazzling in its breadth and startling in its intimacy, Empires, Nations, and Families provides a new look at Native nations and the economies and societies they built as well as a radically new understanding of the web of families, businesses, and personal empires that organized the North American West before the Civil War and the rise of the American empire.
“A sharp reframing of the history of the early Western frontier in personal terms. Elegantly written . . . with a vast dramatis personae and stage, Hyde’s book sheds considerable light on the 19th-century development of the nation.”
“An intricate picture of [the] region. Readable and rich.”
“Ingenious. A magnificent scholarly achievement. . . . A sweeping new narrative account of [Western] history. A book to ponder and plunder.”
“Provocative. A book that is not only well researched and presented but instantly absorbing.”
“Ingenious. A magnificent scholarly achievement. A sweeping new narrative account of [western] history. A book to ponder and plunder.”
—Virginia Scharff, Western Quarterly Review
“Not only well researched and presented but instantly absorbing.”
—Adrienne Caughfield, Journal of American History
Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of the Bancroft Prize—historical writing’s most prestigious award—Empires, Nations, and Families is an epic work of American History that fills in the blanks on the map of the American West between 1800 and 1860. Historian Anne F. Hyde—author of An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture and co-author (with William Deverell) of The West in the History of the Nation—tells a riveting true story of Native Americans, entrepreneurs, fur trappers and fur traders in a vibrant “wilderness” to which Daniel Boone himself was a Johnny-come-lately.