Wampum and the Origins of American Money

wampumby Marc Shell
(co-published with the University of Illinois Press)

List price: $75 plus shipping & handling
Member price: $52.50 plus shipping & handling
ISBN 978-0-252-03366-7 Hardcover, 138 pp., 101 b/w figs., 18 color pls.

Wampum has become a synonym for money, and it is widely assumed that it served the same purposes as money among the Native Algonquians even after coming into contact with European colonists’ money. But to equate wampum with money only matches one slippery term with another, as money itself was quite ill-defined in North America for decades during its colonization. Fledgling colonial currencies assimilated much more from Native American trading practices than they imposed on the locals, so much so that colonists regularly expressed fears of “becoming Indians” in their widespread use of paper money, a novel economic innovation adapted from wampum. In this stimulating and intriguing book, Marc Shell illuminates the context in which wampum was used by describing how money circulated in the colonial period and the early history of the United States.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marc Shell is Irving Babbitt Professor of Comparative Literature and professor of English at Harvard University.

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