This well-written book deals with the exchange of goods between southeastern Indians and British colonists from their first encounter until the 1750s. Continuously comparing behaviors of the two peoples, Stern focuses on general patterns throughout the entire period. Her Indians are Cherokees and especially Creeks; her colonists are those of Georgia and especially South Carolina. Trained as a historian, she is strongly influenced by the insights of anthropologists.

Many previous scholars of the region have noted that some goods changed hands as gifts and others as commodities. According to Stern, most of these scholars did not consider these goods carefully enough to avoid a major misunderstanding. In her view, “the predominant historiography depicting Native Americans as gift givers and the Europeans as modern economic actors” is much overdrawn (1). She elucidates this point in four topical chapters—“Production,” “Commodity Exchange,” “Gift Exchange,” and “Consumption of Commodities.”

At the outset, Stern observes...

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