"Possessed of the most Extensive Trade, Connexions and Influence": The Atlantic Intimacies of an Eighteenth Century Indian Trader
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This project examines the life of George Galphin, an Indian trader in Georgia and South Carolina during the eighteenth century. In particular, my work represents a historiographical intervention in Atlantic World scholarship. As the concept of the Atlantic continues to grow more and more expansive, the paradigm itself is losing its explanatory power. But through an intimate look at Galphin’s life and the people that he surrounded himself with, I argue that eighteenth century individuals did not necessarily understand or think of the world in Atlantic terms. Instead, individuals navigated the world around them through the local circumstances from which they came, and with the personal relationships that they forged throughout their lives. As a consequence, the Atlantic World was comprised of intensely local and intimate peoples and relationships that tied the various places of that world together. In other words, Galphin reveals to us the very personal and local contours of the Atlantic World. This dissertation also serves as a connective bridge between colonial, Native, imperial, and Atlantic histories. Specifically, we see how the lives of countless peoples from disparate worlds intersected with Galphin’s own, and often in very intimate ways. Such peoples included Irish emigrants, Creek Indians, London merchants, colonial governors, African slaves, imperial agents, Euro-American settlers, and a host of others. Needless to say, the many and dissimilar persons who interacted with Galphin do not fit neatly into one specific category of history, but can together tell a larger story that encompasses the histories of Colonial America, Native Peoples, the British Empire, and Atlantic World. Such a framework in turn remedies a fundamental flaw of Atlantic World scholarship: That Native Peoples were inherently a part of that world, despite a scholarly neglect that situates Native actors as passive bystanders to an Atlantic system. Therefore, we see how Creek peoples engaged with Atlantic processes through their relationships with Galphin, in spite of the fact that the Creeks lived far from the ocean’s waters. In short, the history of Colonial America, the British Empire, and Atlantic World cannot be understood without Native Americans, and vice versa. Finally, George Galphin allows me to show how marginal individuals in the eighteenth century exerted political and commercial purchase in Colonial America, the British Empire, Atlantic World, and Indian Country. Through the relationships that he forged with the peoples and places of those worlds, Galphin found the means to shape the events that unfolded in Georgia and South Carolina, Creek and Cherokee Country, and even the British Empire and Atlantic World, even though he was only a fringe figure who lived on the periphery of those worlds. By way of his intimacies with others – again, those personal and locally-centered relationships – Galphin accumulated political capital, commercial resources, social prestige, and other sources of power and influence that radiated outward to influence the peoples, places, and events within the colonial, Native, imperial, and Atlantic worlds.
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