The Lives in Objects

Native Americans, British Colonists, and Cultures of Labor and Exchange in the Southeast

By Jessica Yirush Stern

268 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 halftones, 1 map, 1 chart, 1 table, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3148-6
    Published: February 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3147-9
    Published: February 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3149-3
    Published: December 2016

Buy this Book

For Professors:
Free E-Exam Copies

In The Lives in Objects, Jessica Yirush Stern presents a thoroughly researched and engaging study of the deerskin trade in the colonial Southeast, equally attentive to British American and Southeastern Indian cultures of production, distribution, and consumption. Stern upends the long-standing assertion that Native Americans were solely gift givers and the British were modern commercial capitalists. This traditional interpretation casts Native Americans as victims drawn into and made dependent on a transatlantic marketplace. Stern complicates that picture by showing how both the Southeastern Indian and British American actors mixed gift giving and commodity exchange in the deerskin trade, such that Southeastern Indians retained much greater agency as producers and consumers than the standard narrative allows. By tracking the debates about Indian trade regulation, Stern also reveals that the British were often not willing to embrace modern free market values. While she sheds new light on broader issues in native and colonial history, Stern also demonstrates that concepts of labor, commerce, and material culture were inextricably intertwined to present a fresh perspective on trade in the colonial Southeast.

About the Author

Jessica Stern is associate professor of history at California State University, Fullerton.
For more information about Jessica Yirush Stern, visit the Author Page.


“An insightful analysis of some of the earliest discussions among British settlers and native people over the terms of commodity exchange in the American Southeast.”--William and Mary Quarterly

“In this beautifully styled work, Jessica Yirush Stern opens the scholarly door to examine the meanings behind gift exchanges and trade for both colonists and Indians. The Lives in Objects is one of the best demonstrations of the argument that, although both the British and Indians were transformed through their trade relations, these transformations were shaped by long-term cultural continuities.”--Robbie Ethridge, author of From Chicaza to Chickasaw

“Broad in its geographic and chronological scope, The Lives in Objects promises to change the way we think about European and Indian trade in the early Southeastern United States.”--Timothy Shannon, Gettysburg College