Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

At the Crossroads

Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700–1763

Jane Merritt

Cloth: 978-0-8078-2789-5 ($58.95)
Paper: 978-0-8078-5462-4 ($28.95)

Copyright 2003
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Honorable Mention, Berkshire Conference First Book Prize (2003)

Examining interactions between native Americans and whites in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania, Jane Merritt traces the emergence of race as the defining difference between these neighbors on the frontier.

Before 1755, Indian and white communities in Pennsylvania shared a certain amount of interdependence. They traded skills and resources and found a common enemy in the colonial authorities, including the powerful Six Nations, who attempted to control them and the land they inhabited. Using innovative research in German Moravian records, among other sources, Merritt explores the cultural practices, social needs, gender dynamics, economic exigencies, and political forces that brought native Americans and Euramericans together in the first half of the eighteenth century.

But as Merritt demonstrates, the tolerance and even cooperation that once marked relations between Indians and whites collapsed during the Seven Years' War. By the 1760s, as the white population increased, a stronger, nationalist identity emerged among both white and Indian populations, each calling for new territorial and political boundaries to separate their communities. Differences between Indians and whites—whether political, economic, social, religious, or ethnic--became increasingly characterized in racial terms, and the resulting animosity left an enduring legacy in Pennsylvania's colonial history.

About the Author

Jane T. Merritt specializes in early American History from an Atlantic World perspective. In particular, she has written on eighteenth century Native American encounters in the mid-Atlantic region and is currently exploring the development of consumer ma


Merritt’s book is a richly researched investigation of the world Indians and their neighbors made together, and lost, in the decades before the American Revolution.

--Jill Lepore

With rigor, clarity, and compassion, Merritt reconstructs the world that was lost on the Pennsylvania frontier in the maelstrom of the Seven Years’ War. I know of no portrait of relations between European colonizers and native peoples that does a better job than this one in depicting the human realities of religious faith, intercultural accommodation, and violent conflict. A splendid book.

--Fred Anderson

Merritt charts a marked course toward the consolidation of both ‘Indian’ and ‘white’ identities in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. Employing rich, multilingual sources, she demonstrates with unique insight the experiences and experiments that Indians and colonists embraced as they struggled to survive and to prosper. Rarely has the personal quality of relations among the peoples of colonial America been analyzed with such sophistication or described with such immediacy and intimacy.

--Gregory Evans Dowd

Merritt's At the Crossroads completely reframes the history of the mid-Atlantic frontier. Her exhaustively researched, well-written, and cogently argued book portrays better than anything to date the human reality of cultural interaction and accommodation, religious faith, and frontier violence. . . . This superb book deserves to be widely read and certainly cannot be ignored by serious scholars of early America.

--Journal of American History

Provides disciplined historical coverage. . . . Should stand as a model of . . . historical representation.

--Eighteenth-Century Studies

This well-researched book uses sophisticated analysis and innovative sources to tell an old story in a new and exciting way. The author is especially strong in telling the personal reality of this struggle.


A compelling look at life in the fractured and often fractious world of frontier Pennsylvania. . . . [An] extensive and impressive discussion of the rise of nationalism and the pull of empire.

--Journal of Colonialism and Colonia History

A worthwhile read for anyone interested in Native American history, or the history of the Mid-Atlantic colonies. It is smoothly written and engaging, providing rich textual material and insightful analysis. . . . Provides intriguing new possibilities for the study of European-Indian relations.

--Reviews in American History

Compelling. . . . Merritt has breathed fresh life into this sad story, in a book that every specialist will want to read.

--Journal of American Ethnic History

This 'must-read' book presents a pattern of interaction between Indians and Whites that could be easily applied to other areas of North America. It also draws a very sophisticated picture of intercultural relations.

--American Studies

A work that will stand as a rich contribution not only to several lively schools of work—on memory and history, gender, language, Native American syncretic religion, race, and nation—but also to the burgeoning body of innovative scholarly work on the middle ground of Native American relations with Euramericans in the mid-Atlantic region and the Ohio Valley.

--American Historical Review