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

The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire, 1713–1763

Paul W. Mapp

Cloth: 978-0-8078-3395-7 ($49.95)
Paper: 978-1-4696-0086-4 ($29.95)

Copyright 2011
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • W. Turrentine-Jackson Award, Western History Association (2013)

A truly continental history in both its geographic and political scope, The Elusive West and the Contest for Empire, 1713-1763 investigates eighteenth-century diplomacy involving North America and links geographic ignorance about the American West to Europeans' grand geopolitical designs. Breaking from scholars' traditional focus on the Atlantic world, Paul W. Mapp demonstrates the centrality of hitherto understudied western regions to early American history and shows that a Pacific focus is crucial to understanding the causes, course, and consequences of the Seven Years' War.

About the Author

Paul Mapp is associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary.


Brilliantly calculating the costs of ignorance, Paul Mapp shows that what eighteenth-century European statesmen didn’t know about the North American interior not only hurt the empires they served, but reshaped the world itself. The Elusive West utterly reorients our understanding of the period 1713–1763. It is a superb book.

--Fred Anderson, University of Colorado, Boulder

The Elusive West puts Paul Mapp at the forefront of an exciting generation of continental early Americanists. His dazzling research combines diplomacy and geography with political, military, and intellectual history. This trailblazing book gives weight to the vast American West, both real and imagined, during the vital half-century before 1763.

--Peter H. Wood, Duke University, emeritus

By examining geographic misunderstandings of North America, Mapp helps us see imperial successes and failures in an entirely new way. His insights are based on his own expansive knowledge of the long history of exploration and map-making by multiple empires, as each tried to capture the elusive nature of the continent’s interior. An important and innovative book.

--Kathleen DuVal, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

[A] thought-provoking study of the eighteenth-century colonial West before 1763.

--The Historian

Well organized, written, and indexed. . . . A must read for anyone wishing to understand the historical significance and complexities of the early 18th century colonial world.

--The Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians

Recommended for classroom use and the general history buff seeking a new perspective.

--Colonial Latin American Historical Review

An excellent job of placing Spanish Bourbon political aims and actions in a multilateral and multinational context, moving the history of the American West toward a pluralistic vision encompassing the histories of the French, Spanish, British, and, occasionally, Russian efforts that preceded the westward movement of people from the United States.

--Hispanic American Historical Review

This is connected history on a grand scale, though Mapp never lets the considerable erudition that undergirds it get in the way of the story he so masterfully tells. . . . Remarkably well written and accessible.

--Diplomatic History

Deeply researched and carefully argued.

--American Historical Review

An incredible work of history.

--Terrae Incognitae

The book's analysis of nearly forty maps, its wide-ranging archival research, its original translations from French and Spanish sources (often rendered in the original language in the notes), and the extensive historiography in the footnotes all add up to a scholarly tour de force.

--Journal of Southern History

Deeply researched and beautifully written and illustrated book. . . is highly recommended.

--Tennessee Historical Quarterly