35 pages 1 hour read

Colin G. Calloway

New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1997

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Summary and Study Guide


Colin G. Calloway’s New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (2013) explains how, in the three centuries following Columbus’s arrival in 1492, Europeans and Indigenous Americans remade their world as well as themselves. It focuses on encounters and developments in regions that comprise the present-day United States. Originally published in 1991, the book’s second edition incorporates nearly two decades of new scholarship.

Calloway is the John Kimball, Jr. 1943 Professor of History and Professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth College. He has published a number of award-winning books, including One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark (2003) and The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America (2006).

A Note on Language: The term “Indigenous Americans” is used throughout this guide to refer to the various peoples (and their descendants) who inhabited North America prior to European contact. Calloway’s use of the term “Indian” is preserved in direct quotations from the text.


New Worlds for All is not a traditional narrative. Calloway describes the book as a “collection of essays” and a “series of impressions” designed to show “how things could not have been the way they were without the interaction of Indian and European peoples in America” (xiii). Individual chapters relate to the book’s larger themes but not necessarily to one another. New Worlds for All, therefore, does not tell a story that unfolds in sequence from beginning to end. It is a synthesis of historical scholarship, arranged by topic, covering three centuries of relations between European settlers and Indigenous Americans.

By 1800, the United States had emerged as North America’s rising power, poised to expand across the continent. Meanwhile, the populous Native towns that greeted European explorers three centuries earlier had vanished. Indigenous Americans remained a formidable presence well into the 19th century, but in many history books they have appeared on the new republic’s periphery. New Worlds for All places Indigenous Americans at the center of the story. It highlights the “Indian imprint on American society,” which developed throughout the colonial period (3).

Calloway does not assume a dominant American culture and identify Indigenous influences upon that culture. He argues instead that Europeans and Indigenous Americans came together and created something new. The result was not assimilation of a weaker element into a stronger one but rather an amalgamation of peoples and societies. Each chapter explains how this blending occurred in different ways over three centuries. Europeans and Indigenous Americans altered their physical environment to such a degree that the continent’s earlier inhabitants would have found large parts of it unrecognizable. Each group shared medical knowledge and healed one another. They built a material culture so complex that it often confuses modern archaeologists. They created a new world of religious symbols and rituals. They went to war both against and with one another, and in the process they learned new ways of fighting. They built alliances and made peace together. They moved from one place to another, lived near and with one another, and had children together.

By emphasizing the world-building that Europeans and Indigenous Americans accomplished together, Calloway challenges both traditional and modern interpretations of the colonial period. For many decades, history books and popular culture biasedly portrayed Indigenous Americans as little more than obstacles to expansion and progress and antagonists in a triumphant story of American civilization. Alternatively. Europeans and their descendants are often portrayed as genocidal imperialists who brought only misery to an idyllic world. Calloway argues that these Ahistorical Dichotomies, a theme in the book, do injustice both to the evidentiary record and to people who once lived. New Worlds for All explores another theme: Indigenous Americans’ Resilience Amidst Catastrophic Change, but it does so in the context of creation rather than destruction.