Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 327-28.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Michael Coleman's historical and comparative study represents the latest offering in a critical but still underdeveloped subfield of comparative colonialisms: Irish and Native American connections under the experience of colonization. The tradition of comparative work across the Atlantic Ocean, with its recognition of a fundamental similarity in the practical and ideological work of British and American colonialism in Ireland and Indian Country, has roots in the scholarship of such important intellectuals as Howard Mumford Jones (0 Strange New World! American Culture: The Formative Years), David Beers Quinn (The Elizabethans and the Irish), and Nicholas Canny ("The Ideology of English Colonization: From Ireland to America") during the 1960s and 1970s. Work in the area of comparing the colonial experience of the two, very internally diverse communities went into a curious period of abeyance until recently in the 1990s and now in the early years of the twenty-first century when scholars such as Nancy ScheperHughes, David Harding, David Emmons, the still productive and analytically acute Nicholas Canny, and Michael Coleman began to refocus attention on the productive work of historical and cultural comparison yet to be done.

A senior lecturer in the English section of the Department of Languages at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, and the author of several books on the history of colonial schools in Indian Country (Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes toward American Indians 1837-1893 [1985] and American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930 [1993]), Coleman makes a substantial contribution to the extant scholarship in the field of comparative colonial study through the contexts of Ireland and Native North America. In part, the value of Coleman's work involves his theorization, with the help of scholars such as Peter Kolchin, of a comparativist approach both global in its reach and solidly rooted in the local. Under this comparative framework Coleman argues that "from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries Indians and Irish peoples confronted systematic state-controlled, and assimilationist educational campaigns, as the United States strove to Americanize the Indians and the British government to Anglicize the Irish."