My dissertation examines places the Mississippi River Valley to ask whether the sectional conflict over westward expansion appears differently if we look outward from the center of the continent rather than from east to west. Including the people who inhabited this heterogeneous region reveals that, in the middle of the continent, slavery developed in tandem with the coerced labor of Native Americans. The land Anglo-Americans came to inhabit was, therefore, unfree soil. To turn from the arguments of eastern politicians to lived reality, I trace the migration, settlement patterns, and labor systems of Native American, French, Spanish, British, and, finally, American individuals within the region.
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