My youngest brother is a historian who specializes in early American history. His most recent book, The Two Hendricks: Unraveling A Mohawk Mystery, has just been published by Harvard University Press. It tells the story of two Indian leaders whose identities have mostly been conflated over the intervening centuries.
I asked Eric to write a description of the book for Power Line readers; here it is:
For three quarters of a century before its American colonies declared their independence, the British Empire competed with France and Spain for North American territory. In this competition, Indian relations were supremely important, and the Iroquois Confederacy came to be regarded as crucial to the fate of British North America. The Iroquois gained a mythic status as a uniquely powerful and enlightened Indian polity.
How did this come to be the case? And how can the myth of the Iroquois Confederacy be squared with the reality of an embattled string of villages fighting for their very survival?
Two Iroquois Indians, both named Hendrick and long thought to be a single person, help explain this puzzle. Both played important roles in diplomatic relations with the neighboring colonies of New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. They also became famous in London and throughout the empire, where they symbolized both the power and the civility of the Iroquois.
Among their own people, meanwhile, the two Hendricks calculated the interests of their communities and labored to maintain the confederacy’s power. They argued for the benefits of the British alliance even as their circumstances became more and more precarious. From their perspective, a close tie to Great Britain seemed to offer the best chance for survival.
We know enough about only a handful of Indians from the colonial era to support a biography. But the lives of both Hendricks are richly documented, and they emerge from the records as surprisingly vivid characters, with a significance that reaches far beyond the scope of their own lives. The Two Hendricks tells a richly detailed story that will change the way you think of early American history.
Eric writes extremely well. This is one of the jacket blurbs, by Peter Mancall:
Hinderaker’s finely tuned detective skills unravel a historical mystery, but that is only one of the many contributions of this excellent book, which uses the Mohawk story to provide stunning insights about early America. His mastery of the documentary record and eloquent narrative make this a must read for anyone interested in Native American and colonial American history.
You can buy The Two Hendricks here. I really do recommend it.