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John Demos, Samuel Knight Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University


The seminar will explore what is arguably the single most lastingly important aspect of early American history: the convergence, clash, and (sometimes) joining of three great population streams—Indian, European, and African. The Old World of Europe had nothing like it—not to mention the traditional "worlds" of the African and American continents.

The opening part of our work will treat the arrival in the Americas of explorers from Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain (chiefly in the sixteenth century), and a series of consequent adjustments embracing diplomacy, warfare, trade, and communication. From there we'll move to colonization (“settlement” per se, especially as this unfolded in seventeenth-century British North America. (Was it, as some have claimed, essentially a matter of “invasion” and expropriation? What were the gains and losses on each side?) We’ll consider as well the accompanying, and reciprocal, process of acculturation. (What ideas and attitudes did Indians and Europeans bring to their “discovery” of each other? How were their mental outlook and everyday practice reshaped, both short- and long-term?) At this point we’ll turn to the coming also of Africans—first as a trickle, then (in the eighteenth century) as a flood, and always within the evolving context of enslavement. As the three groups changed in their proportions to one another, so too did their relative power and influence. By the time of the American Revolution, their interaction was patterned along lines that would undergird the life of the independent United States—and point the way toward the multicultural society that is ours today.

In pursuit of these objectives, we’ll enter a variety of literatures: travel writings from the period and other primary source material pertinent to “encounter” as well as modern scholarship. Morning lectures will pose broad thematic questions; supplementary group discussions will focus on the readings. Guest lectures will treat specific topics, such as the structure of slavery and the Yale Indian Papers Project. One or more field trips will take us to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and the residence (now a small museum) of an early Connecticut slaveholder. The seminar will conclude with a dinner at the eighteenth-century home of the chief instructor.


Readings are sent by the Institute to seminar participants. Readings may include:

Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America (University of Oklahoma Press, 1999)

Daniel Richter, Facing East from Indian Country (Harvard University Press, 2003)

Allegra diBonaventura, For Adam's Sake: A Family Saga in Colonial New England (Liveright, 2013)

Travel & Accommodations

Yale University is located in New Haven, Connecticut. The Tweed-New Haven Airport is located about fifteen minutes from the Yale Campus. Taxis from Tweed cost about $15.00 one way. Additionally, Bradley Airport is located an hour north of New Haven and is served by many major airlines. Connecticut Limo shuttles leave once an hour and cost $84 round trip. Amtrak provides service directly into New Haven’s Union Station, about a ten-minute cab ride from downtown New Haven and the Yale campus. MetroNorth provides commuter service on a regular basis from New York City into New Haven.

Workshop participants will be housed in a university residence hall. Rooms are arranged in suites of two single bedrooms with a furnished living room, shared bath, and a kitchenette. The building is air conditioned. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited. Internet service is provided. Please bring your own ethernet cable.

Yale provides sheets and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Kitchenettes are located in each suite. However, participants should bring their own utensils. Housekeeping services are provided throughout the week.


Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Travel Reimbursement

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.

Graduate Credit

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit in American history to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

July 13th, 2014 5:00 PM   through   July 19th, 2014 9:00 AM
Yale University
New Haven, CT
United States

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Seminar Fee
Attending $50.00
Not Attending $0.00

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