Silverman’s deeply researched, vibrant work explores how, from the beginning of European exploration to the close of the “frontier,” Native peoples in North America embraced firearms and sought to control their trade. For readers of this journal, the most significant aspects of Thundersticks are the connections that it highlights between gun technologies and developments in Native politics and cultures, particularly in diplomacy and conflict among Indian groups.

Thundersticks begins with the Iroquois’ embrace of the newly invented flintlocks manufactured by the Dutch in the 1630s, and their development of tactics and techniques that allowed them to dominate the Northeast for most of the century and raid as far west as the Great Lakes. But other Native groups also obtained guns, from the French as well as the Dutch, creating a regional arms race and a rising spiral of violence. Similar dynamics operated in the Southeast where the English gave firearms...

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