William S. Kiser

Borderlands of Slavery

The Struggle Over Captivity and Peonage in the American Southwest

University of Pennsylvania Press 2017

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Latino StudiesNew Books in Native American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in the American WestNew Books Network July 30, 2018 Stephen Hausmann

In recent years, historians have reevaluated the role of unfree labor in the nineteenth century American West. William S. Kiser, an assistant professor of...

In recent years, historians have reevaluated the role of unfree labor in the nineteenth century American West. William S. Kiser, an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University – San Antonio, is part of this historiographical movement. Kiser’s new book, Borderlands of Slavery: The Struggle Over Captivity and Peonage in the American Southwest (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) uses New Mexico as a case study to examine the various forms of coerced labor endemic to multiple successive southwestern societies, including indigenous polities and colonial Spain. Borderlands of Slavery takes an in depth look at how peonage and Indian captivity complicated the seemingly black and white debate over slavery in the antebellum United States, and the important role the question of New Mexico statehood played in enflaming the sectional conflict. The West in general, and New Mexico in particular, became pawns in a national struggle over the future of slavery and freedom, and the institution of peonage thrust the recently conquered southwest into the political spotlight. Kiser’s book is timely and important, and calls for historians to seek out less visible forms of unfreedom that existed well into the twentieth century in sometimes unexpected places.


Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

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