Alexandra Montgomery

  • Fellowship year:2018-2019
  • University: University of Pennsylvania
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States/Canada
  • Dissertation Title: Projecting Power in the Dawnland: Colonization Schemes, Imperial Failure, and Competing Visions of the Gulf of Maine World, 1710-1800
  • "Projecting Power in the Dawnland: Colonization Schemes, Imperial Failure, and Competing Visions of the Gulf of Maine World, 1710-1800" examines colonization schemes in Gulfs of St. Lawrence and Maine in the long eighteenth century, focusing on what is now Maine and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Coastal accessibility and strategic geography made the region inviting to European colonizers. Real power, however, remained with the Native inhabitants of what they called "the Dawnland," and almost none of these Eropean schemes came to fruition until after the American Revolution.
    Unlike other colonies on the eastern seaboard, the Atlantic coast northeast of the Kennebec River remained Indian Country well into the eighteenth century. After the British "conquest" of the French colony of Acadia in 1710, the British Empire sought ways to transform the region into a loyal Protestant colony, British plans centered on importing white settlers from elsewhere within the Empire and other Protestant European nations, believing that the prescence of these settlers would naturally push out Native people through dispossession and assimilation.
    These settlers, however, proved stubbornly illusive, forcing British imperial and colonial governments to turn to a variety of experimental strategies which ranged from using Parliamentary money to pay for settlers' transportation, provisions, and land to encouraging private speculative companies.
    I argue, however, that the British plan was not the only vision of the region's future. The Wabanaki people of the Dawnland developed their own conceptions of the future of the region, resisting European incursions but also developing dynamic new plans for settler integration that would preserve their own power and sovereignty. The French also remained active through the 1760s, pursuing their own vision of state-directed settlement on Ile-Royale and continuing to claim land the British believed was theirs. There were, in other words, many alternatives to the British settlement plans for the region, and the transformation of the Gulf of Maine and Gulf of St. Lawrence into region of white Protestant settlement was neither inevitable nor even probable until almost the end of the eighteenth century. Even within the Brish empire, planners struggled to control the settlers they recruited, and jurisdictional debates between Great Britain and its colonies- particularly Massachusetts- fed intra-imperial tensions. After the defeat of the French in 1763, the Dawnland and how it should be developed emerged as a key question in the debate over what the British Empire in North America should look like.