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Snowshoe Country
An Environmental and Cultural History of Winter in the Early American Northeast


Part of Studies in Environment and History

  • Publication planned for: October 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108445542

£ 22.99

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About the Authors
  • Snowshoe Country is an environmental and cultural history of winter in the colonial Northeast, closely examining indigenous and settler knowledge of snow, ice, and life in the cold. Indigenous communities in this region were more knowledgeable about the cold than European newcomers from temperate climates, and English settlers were especially slow to adapt. To keep surviving the winter year after year and decade after decade, English colonists relied on Native assistance, borrowed indigenous winter knowledge, and followed seasonal diplomatic protocols to ensure stable relations with tribal leaders. Thomas M. Wickman explores how fluctuations in winter weather and the halting exchange of winter knowledge both inhibited and facilitated English colonialism from the 1620s to the early 1700s. As their winter survival strategies improved, due to skills and technologies appropriated from Natives, colonial leaders were able to impose a new political ecology in the greater Northeast, projecting year-round authority over indigenous lands.

    • Identifies and corrects a 'vernal bias' in histories of early America
    • Describes changes in people's knowledge of winter ecology, revealing the benefits and bounties of the winter season for knowledgeable people
    • Examines the politics of 'wintering' in North America for colonial and indigenous powers
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Wickman's Snowshoe Country presents a stunning reappraisal of seventeenth-century New England's extreme winter cold and its role in balancing between 'Indians' winter power and Europeans' hesitant adaptation.' Karen Ordahl Kupperman, New York University

    'By contrasting the experiences of the Wabanaki people and their English invaders during a time of climate change, Thomas M. Wickman beautifully demonstrates that climate history may be very instructive for us, even as he makes clear that, in the context of settler colonialism (then or now), 'us' is a complicated if not contested category.' Joyce Chaplin, James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Wabnakis and English lived in a world where the snowshoe was as important as the plough. As Thomas M. Wickman reveals in this pathbreaking book, snow and cold mattered in ways that historians have forgotten or ignored. Not since William Cronon's Changes in the Land have we had such a subtle study of humans and environment in the northeast. Winter has arrived in the history of early New England.' Peter Mancall, University of Southern California

    'Snowshoe Country restores vital Northeastern winter lands to the center of Indigenous history, settler colonialism, and environmental studies of New England. Thomas M. Wickman elucidates complex winter ecologies and adaptations, delving deeply into a diverse documentary record, the archive of Indigenous winter knowledge and technologies, and enduring literatures of survivance. A must read for anyone interested in colonial American history or climate change.' Lisa Brooks, Amherst College, Massachusetts, and author of Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip's War

    'Wickman describes how early colonists learned to use snowshoes in deep drifts that stopped horses only after they realized that ignorance of their use gave Native peoples a decided military advantage. … Ice and snow were not regarded as a nuisance by the Abenakis and other Native peoples but as an integral part of cultural identity; for them, training in the manufacture and use of snowshoes began at an early age. Wickman describes how command of snowshoes allowed the Abanakis to make winter, with its snows that could reach a depth of three feet, a 'season of power' until English adaptation of snowshoes around 1700 nullified that advantage. Intricately woven, intensively researched, and well written, Wickman's account sets a high bar for history that illustrates the formative role that weather and climate play in human events. Highly recommended.' B. E. Johansen, Choice

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    Product details

    • Publication planned for: October 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108445542
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
    • contains: 13 b/w illus.
    • availability: Not yet published - available from
  • Table of Contents

    1. Snowshoes and indigenous winter ecologies
    2. Overwintering, or when colonists stayed year-round
    3. Seasons of violence and routes to safety in King Philip's war
    4. Frigid nights and icy days in colonial Boston
    5. Wabanaki winter knowledge in the coldest years
    6. Snowshoe men and a new season of want
    7. The idea of apolitical New England winters
    8. Seasons and survivance

  • Author

    Thomas M. Wickman, Trinity College, Connecticut
    Thomas M. Wickman is Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Trinity College, Connecticut.

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