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The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hamalainen
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The Comanche Empire (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Pekka Hamalainen

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165172,171 (3.63)7
Member:rsubber
Title:The Comanche Empire
Authors:Pekka Hamalainen
Info:Yale (2008), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:history, American history, non-fiction, Indians, 18th century, 19th century

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The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hamalainen (2008)

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This book will change your mind about how the West was won. Hint: The Comanches got there first. The Comanches arrived obscurely in the American Southwest in 1706. This book provocatively makes the case that the Comanches created an imposing Southwestern American empire that spanned 150 years, blunted the 18th century colonial ambitions of the Spanish in Mexico and the French in Louisiana, and stalled the westward thrust of Americans and the U.S. government until the middle of the 19th century. A broad coalition of Comanche rancheria chiefs throughout the territory of Comancheria first dominated the Apaches, eventually turned against their Ute allies, and commercially or militarily subjugated numerous lesser tribes. Comanches managed a succession of peace treaties and conflicts with the Spaniards and completely blocked their repeated efforts to extend colonial settlements northward from Mexico. The political, commercial and military supremacy of the Comanches was based principally on their success in adopting and adapting Spanish horses for efficient transportation, military power and a thriving and lucrative trade in horses throughout the Southwest.
The title and Hamalainen's central argument invite—indeed they provoke—a reasonable dispute about the credibility of his claim for a Comanche empire. In classical political or geopolitical usage, the claim is untenable, at least in part; the Comanche empire had neither fixed borders, nor a single self-sustaining centralized supreme authority, nor a durable bureaucracy, nor a definitive political structure. Nevertheless, the Comanches had a respected, recurring broadly representative council of chiefs that planned and organized extensive raids, trading and other commerce, and military operations. Their hunting, pasturing and trading territories had indistinct geographic borders that were never surveyed or adjudicated; Comanches never sought to occupy and permanently control any specifically delineated territory; Hamalainen says they were "conquerors who saw themselves more as guardians than governors of the land and its bounties." Nonetheless, the geographical extent of the their domains was well known, respected and enforced by the Comanches. Each Comanche rancheria had its own geographic territory, rigorous socio-military culture and hierarchical organizational. The situational circumstances of Comanche military superiority, their control of trade and their ability through the decades to repeatedly impose and maintain obviously favorable terms in their treaty and trade agreements are undeniable evidence of the Comanches' extended dominance of terrain, physical resources, culture and commerce, and, not least in importance, the Spanish and French colonial enterprises that sought to compete with them.
For decades the Comanches set the terms of their success; no competing power could defeat them, and no Indians or Europeans could evade the Comanches' dominance in their domain. Thus, the Comanches created a de facto empire. Ultimately, they were marginalized by a combination of drought that constrained their bison hunting and weakened their pastoral horse culture, disruption of trade which limited their access to essential carbohydrate foodstuffs, epidemic disease that repeatedly reduced the Comanche populations, predatory bison hunting by the Americans in the early 1870s that wiped out this essential food resource, and, finally, by the irresistible tide of U.S. government-sponsored westward migration that pushed American citizens into Comanche territory.
Too bad the Comanches left no accounts of their own. It would be fascinating to hear this story in their own words.
Read more on my blog: http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/ ( )
1 vote rsubber | Dec 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300126549, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:59 -0400)

Discusses the power wielded by the Comanches in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the southern Great Plains, the Southwest, and northern Mexico, covering their military ability, political dominance, and commercial and cultural influence as they resisted European colonization until their defeat in 1875.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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