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Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807853825
ISBN-10: 0807853828
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Editorial Reviews


This is a stunning book, likely to be controversial in its particulars. -- Richard White, Stanford University


Brooks's broad and ambitious interpretation of the Southwest is carefully argued in its details and is based on exhaustive research in Spanish-language archives. It is furthered bolstered by an impressive use of anthropology, especially the well-developed literature on African kinship slavery. . . . An innovative and truly important work. It will inform scholarship on early America and on borderlands regions for many years to come.--William and Mary Quarterly

|[A] masterful, splendidly written book.--Western Historical Quarterly

|Captives and Cousins presents a creative rereading of the historiography that produces a new vision of slavery, kinship, and community; its fresh look at the sources leads to a completely new understanding of slavery in the region.--Hispanic American Historical Review

|From its first memorable sentences until its final words, Captives & Cousins will hold many of its readers hostage.--Journal of American History

|This evocative study explores the captive exchange economy and the interactions between slave, Native American, and Euramerican communities in the Southwest Borderlands.--Civil War Book Review

|This is a stunning book, likely to be controversial in its particulars. . . . A kaleidoscopic history, Captives and Cousins is a wonderfully specific study about New Mexico but full of big ideas that will illuminate other places at the margins of states and empires.--Richard White, Stanford University

|Bold and brilliant, James Brooks's fresh look at raiding and slaving takes us beyond the familiar categories of Indians and Hispanics to reveal the deep divisions of gender and class within each group. Sweeping over four centuries, his vivid narrative tells us why people simultaneously preyed on one another and absorbed one another in this violent land.--David J. Weber, Southern Methodist University

|James Brooks takes the sources seriously--including transcribed oral traditions, drawings, folklore, dances, pageants, and archaeology as well as Spanish written reports. In his argument, he stretches our understanding of the nature of colonial slavery and of the dynamic processes through which kin networks created new peoples. This beautifully written book makes it impossible for historians to ignore colonial relationships in the Southwest that began contemporaneously with Jamestown and Plymouth and developed throughout the colonial period.--Karen Ordahl Kupperman, New York University

|Brooks tells this history with clarity and judiciousness.--Journal of American History

|This is an extraordinary book based on an imaginative reading of the documentary record and a judicious use of anthropological theory. By weaving ritual, folklore, and individual stories together with legal, ecclesiastical, and statistical evidence, Brooks has produced a book that satisfies the heart as well as the mind.--Theda Perdue, American Historical Review

|Offers a fresh and insightful new perspective. . . . A synthesis of borderlands history that is relevant not only for students of northern Mexico and the American West, but for all who are interested in the interconnections between slavery, race and ethnicity.--American Studies

|An interesting study of [a] little-known slave system. . . . Brooks illustrates the similarities of Spanish and Indian cultural traditions of capture, enslavement, adoption, and exploitation of outsiders, then examines the groups' similar notions of honor, shame, and gender. . . . Reveal[s] [a] heretofore incompletely understood social and economic Southwest slave tradition.--Choice

|Captives & Cousins is an important book that has the potential to reconfigure the study of slavery, colonialism, trade, violence, and gender and even the language in which such histories are written. Brooks achieves such important contributions because of his prodigious command of sources and his able use of anecdotes to bring this lost past alive. Hopefully the book will mark not so much the next generation of middle ground studies but instead signal a new conceptual direction for American historians to take.--Canadian Journal of History

|Contributes important new perspectives to continuing debates and opens new doors for comparisons and syntheses of borderlands as contested spaces of power and merging identities.--New Mexico Historical Review

|I opened up this book and could not put it down. I was just knocked out by the fact that someone could be writing about slavery in such a new and totally fresh way that expands our horizons geographically and chronologically. It's so rare that you get bowled over by a work in your own field.--Scott McLemee, Chronicle of Higher Education

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Product Details

  • Series: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (May 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807853828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807853825
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on November 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
Author James Brooks has turned out a fascinating book about slavery among American Indians and the Spanish colonists of New Mexico. We see through his eyes the cultural synthesis in New Mexico that took place over a period of three centuries among Indian tribes and Spanish colonists.

Slavery worked in many ways in the borderlands. The Indians vied among themselves for captives that could be traded among themselves, put to work, or adopted into the tribe. Spanish captured Indians and made of them family members, slaves, or soldiers. Indians captured Spaniards with the same aim. The result was an ethnic stew.

What makes this book much better than the average scholarly endeavor is Brook's use of primary sources to come up with precise information and fascinating stories of individuals impacted by slavery. For example, we often hear authors talk in generalities about the Comanches as a warlike, raiding nation. Brooks quantifies their impact. He tells us that from 1771 to 1776 that Indians, mainly Apache and Comanches, killed 1,674 people in Mexico and stole 68,256 head of livestock. That gives us a vivid picture of the scope and scale of Indians and a reason to believe that the terror they inspired was not exaggerated. (He also includes extensive footnotes so one can check the sources of his information.)

Moreover, Brooks tells us about the fate of individuals swept up in Indian raids. One Mexican boy, for example, was captured by the Comanches when he was eight, enslaved, and then sold to the Wichita when he was twenty.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paula Svincek on February 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Captives and Cousins, Brooks provided me with a dioramic view of lifestyles and conditions of my genízaro ancestors. Church records that were previously found described my Navajo GG Grandfather as adopted, "hijo natural adoptivo", while an 1865 Indian Agency report numbered him with the "Indian Captives acquired by purchase and now in the service of the citizens of Conejos County". I found that Captives and Cousins put many of the family stories that I've heard into prospective that I would not have previously understood.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Kirk on July 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
James F. Brooks, in Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands (2002), examines the origins and legacies resulting from interaction between and within distinctive Euro-American and Native American societies in the Borderlands region of the U.S. Southwest during the Spanish colonial and Mexican periods. Within this new culture (what he terms an “intercultural exchange network”), colonials and natives were inexorably drawn together by a tradition of capture, servitude, and kinship and participated in a common economy based largely on a distinct slave system. Brooks, as the title of his book suggests, devotes a great deal of Captives & Cousins to the captive exchange economy that emerged within Borderlands society, illustrating its long-standing place in native society and contrasting its form with Southern chattel slavery. In essence, as men married their slaves and produced offspring, the captives became “cousins.”

The origin of this Southwest Borderlands culture seems to lie in similar Spanish and native traditions of violence, capture, adoption, and exchange, as well as perceptions of honor, shame, and gender. He offers great insight into the form of slavery that evolved in the Southwest Borderlands. Slavery in the Southwest Borderlands, he claims, was “soft slavery,” similar to that practiced by indigenous African societies, as opposed to the more familiar form of chattel slavery employed in the American South. It was based not so much on racism as on a means of establishing social prestige or promulgating honor for the captors. Not surprisingly, as males dominated Borderland society, women and children (objects of honor among the men) largely operated as pawns within the slave system.
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An important book for anyone interested in the frontier history of New Mexico. The extent to which raiding and captives played a political role in relations between groups is little known, and here well-documented.
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