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

Bonds of Alliance

Indigenous and Atlantic Slaveries in New France

Brett Rushforth

Cloth: 978-0-8078-3558-6 ($39.95)

Copyright 2012
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • FEEGI Biennial Book Prize (2013)
  • Merle Curti Award in Social History, Organization of American Historians (2013)
  • Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Book Prize, French Colonial Historical Society (2013)
  • Laurence Wylie Prize in French and Francophone Cultural Studies, Center for French and Francophone Studies at Duke University (2012–2013)
  • Finalist, Frederick Douglass Book Prize, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition (2013)

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, French colonists and their Native allies participated in a slave trade that spanned half of North America, carrying thousands of Native Americans into bondage in the Great Lakes, Canada, and the Caribbean. In Bonds of Alliance, Brett Rushforth reveals the dynamics of this system from its origins to the end of French colonial rule. Balancing a vast geographic and chronological scope with careful attention to the lives of enslaved individuals, this book gives voice to those who lived through the ordeal of slavery and, along the way, shaped French and Native societies.

Rather than telling a simple story of colonial domination and Native victimization, Rushforth argues that Indian slavery in New France emerged at the nexus of two very different forms of slavery: one indigenous to North America and the other rooted in the Atlantic world. The alliances that bound French and Natives together forced a century-long negotiation over the nature of slavery and its place in early American society. Neither fully Indian nor entirely French, slavery in New France drew upon and transformed indigenous and Atlantic cultures in complex and surprising ways.

Based on thousands of French and Algonquian-language manuscripts archived in Canada, France, the United States and the Caribbean, Bonds of Alliance bridges the divide between continental and Atlantic approaches to early American history. By discovering unexpected connections between distant peoples and places, Rushforth sheds new light on a wide range of subjects, including intercultural diplomacy, colonial law, gender and sexuality, and the history of race.

About the Author

Brett Rushforth is assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon.


In this pioneering effort to unite Atlantic and ethnohistorical approaches to colonial North American history, Brett Rushforth traces the traffic in Native American captives from the continental heartland into slavery in French Canada and on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. Bonds of Alliance is a highly original, thoroughly researched, and strongly argued study that forces us to rethink the received wisdom on Native-French relations.

--Allan Greer, McGill University

Brilliantly bringing together Native American and Atlantic History, Bonds of Alliance offers a nuanced analysis of shifting forms, meanings, and experiences of slavery. Rushforth draws on prodigious and wide-ranging research, using travel narratives, social history, and linguistic analysis to tell a rich and vivid story. A tremendous contribution to our understanding of the French Atlantic.

--Laurent Dubois, Duke University

Avec Bonds of Alliance , l’histoire de l’esclavage en Amérique ne sera plus jamais la même. Porté par une écriture puissante et par une époustouflante érudition, l’ouvrage de Brett Rushforth montre que non seulement plusieurs systèmes serviles ont coexisté sur le continent américain à l’époque moderne mais aussi qu’ils opéraient à des échelles et à des fins bien différentes que ce qu’a retenu l’historiographie.

--Dominique Deslandres, Université de Montréal

Rushforth imaginatively uses French and Native sources to illuminate a largely forgotten but vitally important chapter of the American encounter. . . . He never loses sight of the human stories, especially of enslaved Natives, which form the larger patterns he has found. A remarkable achievement.

--James H. Merrell, Vassar College

General readers and professional historians alike will enjoy and learn from Brett Rushforth's fresh look at slavery in colonial North America and the Caribbean. . . . He successfully blends history and historiography with narratives and analysis.

--The Annals of Iowa

Will surely take its rightful place beside other required readings for anyone studying the nature of Indian slavery, Indian-French relations in New France, or colonialism in the Atlantic World.

--Western Historical Quarterly

Those with an interest in the complexities of native-newcomer relations, the connections of the region to greater French history, or slavery outside the American South will find Bonds of Alliance to be worthwhile reading.

--Indiana Magazine of History

Slavery is at once ubiquitous and highly localized in this masterly work by Brett Rushforth. . . . Bonds of Alliance engages with the historiographies of native studies, early America, early modern Europe, and the history of slavery, and it enriches them all.

--Journal of American History

[A] sharp and superb study. . . . This book challenges us to seriously re-think slavery's role, and the history of race, in French colonial projects in early Canada.

--Histoire sociale/Social History

Rushforth's research is impressive. . . and the writing vividly brings to life the world of the Indian slaves in New France. . . . A well-crafted, detailed history and exciting narrative.


The extensive use of linguistic and archaeological evidence makes this a pathbreaking work. . . . Highly recommended. Graduate students, faculty.


Through his exhaustive research and attention to larger connections, Rushforth provides perhaps the most compelling account yet of the significance of Indian slavery to early American and Atlantic histories. . . . A must-read for historians of slavery, early American history, French colonial history, Atlantic history, and American Indian history alike.

--William and Mary Quarterly

A sophisticated analysis. . . . This academic work could also introduce a general readership to a wide range of subjects across disciplines including French colonial diplomacy, law, sexuality, race, slavery, and Latin America.

--Arkansas Historical Quarterly