In his book, The Comanche Empire
(Yale University Press, 2008), Pekka Hämäläinen
refutes the traditional story that Indians were bit players or unfortunate victims of the white man’s conquest of the American West. Old maps that divided America into Spanish, French, and British territories, Hämäläinen argues, are “fictions” insofar as they entirely miss great indigenous contenders of military, economic, and political power. Such a one were the Comanches who fought, traded, and cooperated—often simultaneously—with European and Native American rivals, and rose to be a dominating power in the Great Plains for almost 200 years. The Comanche Empire
brings a riveting narrative in a dialectical spirit to the fields of American, American Indian, Spanish and Mexican Imperial, and Borderlands histories.
Professor Hämäläinen is Rhodes Professor at the University of Oxford, specializing in early and nineteenth-century North American history especially in indigenous, colonial, imperial, borderlands, and environmental history—all topics that invite comparative discussion and a global view. His first book was When Disease Makes History: Epidemics and Great Historical Turning Points
(2006); The Comanche Empire
is his second book; he is currently working on a history of the Lakota-Sioux that will be published next year.
Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Spanish Empire specializing on culture, diplomacy, and travel. He completed his PhD in 2017 at UC Berkeley where he is now a Visiting Scholar; he also teaches at Los Medanos College and Berkeley City College.