Heart of American Darkness: Bewilderment and Horror on the Early Frontier

Conrad's novella tells a story of empire-on-the-make, of exploitation and cruelty, of death and derangement, of a strange river that opens up lands of potential and desire, of reputations made, lost, and redeemed 'out there.'

Lecture Description

In this lecture based on his 2024 book, Parkinson presents a startling narrative of the ever-shifting encounters between white colonists and Native Americans. This fundamentally new account of the American frontier shows that it was defined not by hardy pioneers or imperial power, but by sheer mayhem.  We have long been divided over how exceptional the United States is, and that debate has often revolved around the frontier. Parkinson reveals that the colonization of the interior was not a rational process or heroic deed — nor the act by which American democracy was forged. Rather, it was as bewildering, violent, and haphazard as European colonization of Africa. Bringing a Conradian lens to the central episodes of the early American frontier from the 1730s through the Revolutionary War, he follows the intertwined histories of two prominent families, one colonial and the other Native, who helped determine the fate of the empires battling for control of the Ohio River Valley.


American Indian Borderlands

ALL TOPICS & TITLES: Go back to all topics and titles.

More Distinguished Lectureship Program Resources