American Passage: The Communications Frontier in Early New England
New England was built on letters. Its colonists left behind thousands of them, brittle and browning and crammed with curls of purplish script. How they were delivered, though, remains mysterious.
Unearthing the early American communications frontier, American Passage retells the story of English colonization through an unseen world of travelers, rumors, movement, and letters.
The English quest to control the northeast entailed a great struggle to control the flow of information. Even when it was meant solely for English eyes, news did not pass solely through English hands. Algonquian messengers carried letters along footpaths, and Dutch ships took them across waterways. Who could travel where, who controlled the routes winding through the woods, who dictated what news might be sent? In the hands of Katherine Grandjean, these questions reveal a new dimension of contest and conquest in the northeast. Gaining control of New England was not solely a matter of consuming territory, of transforming woods into farms. It also meant mastering the lines of communication.